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REBELLIOUS PRISONER. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CAT’S HOUSE AND SECHIN’S SPECIAL FORCE

CAT’S HOUSE AND SECHIN’S SPECIAL FORCE

27.11.2018

After the session where my arrest had been extended, investigator Roman Vidiukov decided to send me for expert examination to the Serbskii Federal Medical Research Centre of Mental Medicine and Narcology. That is why I have decided to write about Cat’s House, the mental hospital in Butyrka Prison. I have spoken to the people who have been to both establishments, but as I am going to attend the Serbskii Institute on my own, I will describe my own impressions.

The difference between these two establishments is huge. In the Serbskii Institute, nothing is done by force, and the conditions there are very comfortable: good meals, large walking yards, very friendly staff and luxurious rooms with huge windows. Patients are free to come into different rooms, to the canteen and toilet, and they are given MMPI and situational tests. In other words, it is the institute, contrary to Butyrka.

The psychiatric in-patient facility of Butyrka Prison, which is called Cat’s House, is the prison hospital turning into hell for many patients. Prisoners from all prisons and prison settlements of Russia mostly get here. It is a four-floor beige building for around 300 people, each floor having its own doctors and patients suffering from disorders of different severity.

Those who have tried to commit suicide and hear voices are held on the first floor, although they look quite normal and often simulate mental disorders. Those who have been declared legally incapacitated, usually transferred from the first floor or having a medical opinion from another hospital, are held on the second floor. The raving mad who wet their beds are on the third floor.

Of course, I have communicated only with those prisoners who are on the first floor. They have not been admitted to the second and third floors, but the household prisoners, the roads and medical staff can tell you about the prisoners’ detention conditions.

The prisoner who has arrived for treatment for the first time enters the doctor’s office and is prescribed haloperidol and aminazin. Tranquillizers cannot be administered by force, especially the ones that have already been banned all over the world. Such products can only be administered by doctors without the patient’s consent only based on the court decision. However, the following happens in practice: the prison wardens and household prisoners put a straight jacket on the new patient, make an injection and handcuff him to the bed. It can last several days depending on how he behaves. 

There are around 14 cells on the first floor. Four of them are for eight people, and the others are for four, three and two people. There are TVs and fridges as well as underbosses in the cells for eight people. There are two household prisoners on each floor. They examine bags, put on handcuffs, clean the floor and bring documents. In ordinary prisons, the household staff is the lowest layer of prison groups, but they are treated as minor executives in the Cat’s House. All the underbosses in the cells have been imprisoned for more than a year. Shaman is an underboss in charge of the gully and has been behind the bars for two years. Azamat is an underboss in charge of the cell and has been in prison for a year and a half. Timur is an underboss in charge of the cell and has been in prison for more than a year. All these middle-aged men regularly beat the patients by the order of the Chief Medical Officer and have free access to any cell. My good acquaintance Anna Karetnikova has often noticed bruises left by the handcuffs among the prisoners, but, of course, they deny everything because they are afraid of injections. This kind fairy has saved prisoners from torture and violence many times. There have been at least seven deaths in this small hospital for the last year. Four of them died of haloperidol and aminazin overdose, they just did not wake up in the morning; three of them hanged themselves (two did because their telephone had been taken away).

The doctors and underbosses do not like the patients admitted for the second time and start repressions immediately and accuse them of simulation. They make you write a statement that you have been cured so that there will be more patients, and the hospital will have better quantity indicators.

The underbosses look different: they are well dressed, wear watches and have telephones in their pockets. They say that Butyrka’s mafia enforcer Ingush Akhmed sent boxes of cigarettes and tea to the Cat’s House, but the prisoners never got them.

There are four meals a day, quite goods ones, including eggs, butter and milk every day. There is a shop and a restaurant, Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Kaluzhskii”, and attorneys can come every day. In the hospital in Matrosskaia Tishina, the doctors are compared to prison wardens because of their violence and indifference; Cat’s House doctors are assassins in the white uniform. There are other opinions, but they are rare.

Butyrka was built in the times of Catherine the Great the same was as Matrosskaia Tishina. In 1784, the empress gave her permission for the construction of the stone prison castle instead of the wooden prison next to Butyrskaia frontier post. The prison building was designed by Matvei Kazakov, the famous Moscow architect who also founded the wonderful Church of Holy Mandylion of Edessa at the bend of the Nary in Raisemenovskoe Village in Serpukhov District, where I had my children baptised and brought an Easter lamp to the cross procession every year. There used to be the children resort and school, where I rested, studied and became a pioneer, in the building of Nashchokin’s mansion, next to the church. Both mansion and the church were designed by that famous architect.

Butyrka Prison is a bit larger than Matrosskaia Tishina, and there are around 3,000 prisoners in there. I would be glad to be transferred to Butyrka from Lefortovo so that my tour around the landmark ancient churches would be complete.

***

On 14 November, I was taken to the court in connection with another complaint against the investigator. Also, I wanted to see my attorneys, relatives and prison friends in the prison trucks.

There were no Lefortovo “stars” that day, but I managed to talk to the officer of the Federal Security Service who was held in our detention centre and to see another “terrorist gang” composed of the people from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan working at the construction site. Of course, if they are terrorists, I am a ballet dancer. I do not want to repeat their sad story of how they were beaten and made to sign clean sheets of paper, which would be filled in by the officers of the Federal Security Service later. Terrible!

I did not even put their last names and intricacies of the “planting” of weapons and extremist literature. All the same, our special services lack imagination. What a shame! Such a waste of budget for this profanity.

Most of the time, I spoke to the former officer of the Federal Security Service and promised not to mention his name. We have lots of common acquaintances, and I was definitely interested to find out his opinion on the “changes” in the Federal Security Service, especially given the fact that looked it from behind the bars in Lefortovo.

To be honest, I could see the transformation of the Federal Security Service into the main regulator of the Russian law enforcement market much better because I spent ten years in close cooperation with the Sixth Service of the Internal Security Directorate of the Federal Security Service managed by Oleg Feoktistov, the key General of the Federal Security Service capable of solving any issue. My official cooperation with the Sixth Service started after General of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Cherkesov had been destroyed, and his Deputy Aleksandr Bulbov was imprisoned, allegedly for wiretapping. Then it began to snowball: the Main Directorate for Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Enforcement was under attack, and General Sugrobov was imprisoned, and the Moscow Region prosecutors were torn; they almost got to Chaika. Also, Murov, the Head of the Federal Security Guard Service, and Belianinov, the Head of the Federal Transport Service, were dismissed. The “Holy Inquisition”, “Sechin’s special force” and “Putin’s Oprichniki” – those were some of the names used to call the team of “Oleg the Great”. 

Oleg Feoktistov had direct access to the President, but he sometimes reported in the presence of Bortnikov, the Director of the Federal Security Service. The novelty was that when he prepared the operational summary, he had it counter-signed by Putin and used as a universal weapon to dispose of any victim. Some people believe that Igor Sechin, who was in charge of the law enforcement authorities then and the main boss of Oleg Feoktistov, was the first to use that technology. One of such President’s signatures acted like a shot from the Aurora and dully destroyed the Cherkizovo market. 

You can still hear the echo of Telman Ismailov’s case. Nizami Iusubov and Khudadat Rubinov got incredible sentences for organising the sewing production facility at the Cherkizovo market two months ago: 15 and 16 years of the prison settlement. Manashirov was sentenced to 12 years in the high-security prison for helping Zhan Rafailov, the co-owner of Cherkizon, to get out of prison based on the medical opinion. His sentence has been appealed from and has not entered into force.

The brightest trick by the Investigative Committee, which is fully controlled by the Federal Security Service, was detention of Telman’s nephew, Zaur Mardanov, for kidnapping of singer Avraam Russo 14 years ago! It is clear to any child why the popular singer decided to file a statement so many years later – he has been asked by the Federal Security Service. On 14 September 2018, the gallant head of the Main Investigations Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, General Kaburneev instituted criminal proceedings against Mardanov based on the singer’s kidnapping at 4:30 a.m. (probably, he had an insomnia). 

Let me remind that Mr Kaburneev often suffers from insomnia: on 13 June, the day when the election for the office of the Head of Serpukhov District was appointed, he could not sleep as well; at 2 a.m., he approved institution of the framed-up criminal proceedings against Shestun based on Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and recollected the events that had taken place ten years ago.

These magicians definitely sleep like a log at night and sign documents on the criminal proceedings with the previous day’s date so that there will be no attorneys when the victim is detained in the morning, and there will be no need to get a court permission for the search. Nobody is surprised in Russia, everyone is used to this circus. Although General Feoktistov “is done”, as Ivan Tkachev told me (there is a record), the shells of the paper containing his approval are still wounding.

While I was working with the Sixth Service, I often saw and heard of such papers containing the approval and opening any door in the court and prosecutor’s office then. 

That technology did not work with one man only, Ramzan Kadyrov, because he would just go to the President as well and get the counter-signature actually cancelling the previous one.

By the way, when Denis Sugrobov was fishing in Astrakhan and got the summons from the Investigative Committee, he realised at once that it would be followed by his arrest and left for Grozny to get support of the leader of the Chechen Republic. The officers of the Sixth Service of the Internal Security Directorate of the Federal Security Service managed to catch his vehicle and detain Denis despite the fact that Astrakhan and Grozny were quite close, and there were lots of different roads to get to Chechnya. The problem was that General Sugrobov did not turn off his telephone and take the SIM card out of it.

It was Feoktistov who created the practice of proving the bribe on the basis of two witnesses’ testimony, which the young officer in the prison truck suffered from. Despite his imprisonment, he did not want to agree with the fact that his service had turned into a monster and tried to object passively although he realised uselessness of his own arguments. The emotional story by the “terrorist” Uzbeks about the barefaced falsification of their criminal case could not give him extra confidence.

 

***

When I had arrived at the Basmannyi Court and entered the court room following the notorious extension of the arrest in November with the pepper spray attack, during which I was deprived of the right to speak and dragged out of the room, I found out that the wardens were also accompanied by a German shepherd. Actually, it kept sleeping impudently all the hearing, but the large Kalmyk warden looked at me angrily. If I were to be bitten to death, it would not be the dog.

My way back in the prison truck took around four hours, three of which we spent standing next to the Moscow City Court. Our compartment was overcrowded, and there were women from the sixth detention centre in the other one.

Seven or eight people kept smoking, but the ventilation did not work when the engine was off. Moreover, after I asked two young men sitting on the fringe of the crowd with cigarettes in their teeth which central prison they were from, they responded nicely that they were from the tuberculosis unit in Matrosskaia Tishina.

“Don’t you worry, we have a passive form of tuberculosis, you are not likely to catch it,” the smoking fair-haired man responded and told us how he had been infected in prison in the same cell with the prisoner suffering from an active form of tuberculosis. 

There were prisoners from all the detention centres: Butyrka, Presnia, Kapotnia, Medvedkovo, Vodnik, Matrosskaia Tishina and Lefortovo. Many of them recognised me, some put down my last name to read my publications. They also asked me a lot of questions about the prospects of the amnesty to the 25th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. I told them that I had recorded the address to the citizens of Russia, where I demanded from the government to carry out the wide amnesty and reduce the number of prisoners twice. I asked for their advice on the campaign that could be conducted both in and outside prisons by means of relatives. On a December day, the parents, wives, sons and daughters could, for instance, launch Chinese lanterns into the night sky near prisons while the prisoners themselves would knock on the door, without any violations, so that they could hear their neighbours and feel solidarity.

The flying lanterns would be seen from prison windows as a symbol of hope for freedom. Something must be done! It is no use holding so many people behind the bars. The women from the next compartment loved the idea while the men felt more sceptic about the public campaign.

A good-looking girl suggested bearing my child after my ardent speeches, but when I told her I already had five, she took her words back. Damn it! I forgot to tell her that the last name of Shestun meant the sixth child in the family; may be, her offer would still be in force given my cast-iron logic.

To be series, I am deprived of an opportunity to have a long (night) meeting with my wife. Iulia has given me a public promise to give birth to a girl (if possible) to conform to the last name of Shestun. I am 54, Iulia is 39, and only God knows how long I will stay in prison. Lefortovo’s practice is at least three years, which is risky for giving birth to a child.

“According to Article 21 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to personal life. However, this right is violated with regard to the people who are suspected of the crime, but have not been convicted by the court,” says human rights defender Volodia Osechkin. “We know the terrible statistics: the men held in custody have more than 50 % of divorces; as for the women, the situation is even worse: the number of divorces is incredible, 80 to 90 %. In no small measure, it is connected with the inability to have sexual life.” 

According to Osechkin, it ruins the most important social liaison the prisoners have: their family.

In many European countries, prisoners are allowed to visit their families at the weekend provided that they behave proper in prison, in order to maintain this basic social institution. At the same time, our state gives minor benefits to the families with many children with one hand and takes away their breadwinners under the doubtful accusation with the other hand. No wonder the population of Russia is shrinking dramatically.

There is a saying, “Get into prison and change your wife”. It sounds especially terrible for children.

I am reading Solzhenitsyn now; quite a lot of attention is dedicated to the issue of sex, the same way is by other authors of the prison novels. I only read fiction literature about prison life.

An exception was The Cancer Ward by Solzhenitsyn, but only because I had expected him to write about force labour camps and prisons only. Moreover, there was an issue of prisoners, and the patients suffering from cancer were similar to the doomed prisoners. There is a good analogy: a man tries not to think about this unpleasant issue until he or his relative gets into prison. The people suffering from cancer are also ignored by the society, but as soon as you find a malignant neoplasm and start rushing around oncology centres, you suddenly notice many people with such diseases around and realise how little their expensive treatment is financed by the state. There can be another analogy with drug addiction, HIV patients and many other issues in our country.

The issue of sex is also described in The Notes from the Dead House by Dostoevsky and the most popular prison best-seller of the world, Papillon by Henri Charrière, which it very difficult to get in Lefortovo library because of the high demand. The French have always been striving for freedom, and this novel stuns with its optimism and life in detention, which is very different from the Russian prison rules. May be, this is the reason why this book is loved by the Moscow detention centres so much.

First of all, the main character called Papillon works as a nightman in the prison settlement: he is responsible for disposing of faeces from the toilets with a relay of bulls. At the same time, he enjoys great respect among the prisoners and charms the first lady of the prison settlement, the wife of the prison settlement head. The couples made of man who are madly in love with each other are described in detail, and it was already not a shame in the middle of XX century. Those who have read the book traditionally resent Papillon’s departure from the Goajira Indians, where he lived with two young sisters from the tribe and had pearls and cocaine plant leaves. Our books are as scary as our prisons.

Of course, my opinion of the Russian prisons is not totally objective as I describe the conditions in the special units rather than under the minimum-security conditions. I have never been to a cell of 40 or 50 people where, as the prisoners adhering to the thief rules, the “real life” is. They play cards for money, have telephones, alcohol and drugs, regular disputes and conflicts, the “roads”, shouting and active night life. There is also lots of fun in the “woollen cells”: the prisoners who fail to adhere to the prison rules are held there because of their hygiene or moral violations.

The accused who has spent at least a day in the “woollen cell” will never be able to live in the “human one”. Nevertheless, the prisoners in the “woollen cells” do not suffer much; they do not comply with the prison rules, a mafia enforcer or underboss cannot blame them for anything because they already are the cast-away. They can be compared to the leprous who were also settled separately from the society. They say that the “woollen” prisoners have dances and performances at night, and they have role play almost every day. Even the prison wardens try to avoid that area: as they are surrounded by the prisoners around the clock, they start adhering to the rules to some extent and speak the prisoners’ language.

In fact, the criminals have lighter attitude to the prison life than the businessmen or public officials held in the special units, under framed-up cases in 90 % of cases, who write many complaints, submit applications to the European Court and do their best to prove their innocence, but still get long sentences.

However, the criminals generally plead guilty, have special procedures, get minimum sentences and go to prison settlements. Of course, there are some exceptions.

***

Here, in prison, I often recall Volodia Ivianskii, the Moscow businessmen, who bought the land of Serpukhovskii State Farm in Novinki Village to build a country hotel with the French design, lakes and airport for general-purpose aviation. Ivianskii was incredibly creative, designed and installed the utility systems in Moscow, and his office looked like a space ship. He loved long walks around the forest, dozens of kilometres a day, danced Argentinian tango, attended tango meetings and marathons in different countries, and was also fond or rock climbing. 

Volodia helped me create the tourist cluster in Serpukhov District branded as Oka Valley. I signed the agreement on creation of the single tourist area with all the districts adjacent to our district in the Oka flood bed and had a water scooter tour with stops in each municipality and a small concert. We created and printed the map of the Oka Valley with the tourist routes, hotels, museums and churches. Ivianskii was my main assistant from the business community. 

One day, while he was taking another long walk around the forest in Novinki, he was shot by the Moscow police officer poaching in our forests. He had thought it was a deer. He had his foot shot off. It was put into the bag, and Volodia was taken to hospital. He recovered almost completely. When Ivianskii was going to summit the Pamir, I could not help reading him a lecture, 

“Volodia, wasn’t the foot story enough? God has warned you.”

“You see, Sasha, I have already packed my bags, this is the dream of my life,” Ivianskii objected.

“You are more than 50, stop that! Finish the hotel, do something less extreme,” I tried to persuade him. However, I could see it in his eyes that he was on the Pamir mentally.

Vladimir died just before the summit of the Communism Peak; his body was tied up there, in the cave, because the weather condition gave no chance to take his body down. Ivianskii’s body was taken down and buried only in six months. This is how it works! I did my best to persuade him not to risk, but I decided not to submit the letter of resignation even despite Tkachev’s, Iarin’s and Vorobev’s threats. I had even fewer chances to survive that Volodia Ivianskii on the Pamir: his risks were 50 by 50 while I was 90 % sure in my interview to the media that I would be imprisoned after my video address. Moreover, I have five children. How could I be giving advice to the others and make the same mistake myself at the age of 53? I ask myself this question every morning, when I habitually wake up at 5 a.m. It seemed I would be cowardice and betrayal of my colleagues and residents of the district to submit the letter of resignation or go abroad. Three elderly women had already been arrested then, and the regional Federal Security Service and the Main Directorate for Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Enforcement had ski-mask raids almost every day. I had around 3,000 subordinates, who would be affected by the liquidation of the district or massive arrival of the Moscow rubbish. How could I leave the residents of Kurilovo, who would immediately be given away to Kaluga Region like slaves?

I did not want to be remembered like Kerenskii, who had escaped from the Temporary Government in Saint Petersburg from the bolsheviks in the woman’s dress. What is that? My ambitions? My civil responsibility? My pride?

Of course, if I had fled, I would have been unable to look my countrymen in the eye and at myself in the mirror. It would mean that I was together with people, enjoyed respect and other benefits when everything was fine, and I disappeared and got scared as soon as it got “hot”. I still have not found the proper answer. What should I have done? I have not saved the district and let down my family.

The most terrible thing is that our residents themselves are not fighting for their life, their district, their clean air and the right to choose. It turns out my sacrifice and suffering have been in vain. Tkachev was right to say,

“Nobody will protest to support you after the massive arrests and searches shown on all the channels. Nobody will fight for the district, nobody needs that. You are naive and stupid. How old are you?”

“53,” I responded.

“Are you tired of living? You are 53, but you speak about your colleagues and residents like a child. They will remember and betray you at once, or will even kick you in the end. We will take away all your and your relatives’ property, attach all the accounts. Think about the children: they will be in the street. What the fuck are you telling me about betrayal and people? Is it your first day in politics? Be more flexible, play for yourself.”

No matter how mean and cynical Ivan Ivanovich’s words sounded, his assessment of the current situation was absolutely accurate and, which is most important, sincere. They are sure that they are right, that they can executed based on the political orders, and that they will never be punished. They sleep well at night, but only after they drink buckets of vodka. 

Pushkin’s poem is still true today:

... In our vile days,

Grey Neptune – Earth’s ally and debtor.

In every element, man stays 

A tyrant, prisoner or traitor.

I can fall into this abyss like Volodia Ivianskii after I have been through hell. Well, this is my choice! I would have no difficulty dying for my beliefs, but I do want people to appreciate that self-sacrifice.

My prison “adventures” can be compared to climbing up the mountain. So much deprivation, so many efforts and anguishes, risking my own health and even life to climb up the snowy Everest, raise my arms to the sky and shout out to the world, “I have passed this way! Hey! Freedom!”

I am often asked why I publish so many articles, beyond any limits: about the tricks by the Investigative Committee, the crimes by the Federal Security Service, the corruption by Governor Vorobev, the rotten judicial system and our horrible prisons.

“Why pull the sleeping lion’s tail?”

“What do I have to lose? I’m in Lefortovo, at the very bottom,” I answer. “Wanted to turn me into a hero? Enjoy!”

First of all, I hope that my publications will protect me from getting killed by the Federal Security Service in the detention centre. It is not a metaphor: I am well aware of many liquidations by the Sixth Service of the Internal Security Directorate of the Federal Security Service. I have written about the mysterious deaths of Generals Nisifirov, Sizov, Kolesnikov, let alone hundreds killed in absolute silence. The only case truly covered by the media was an attempted murder of Skripal, only owing to the fact that it happened in Great Britain. There is a direct ratio: the more a write about “tricks”, the harder it is to kill me.

Secondly, it is of practical use. If I cannot leave anything for my children to inherit (all my assets have been attached), I can at least given my children the last name of the hero who has disposed the rotten core of our law enforcement system. “Shestun?” my children will be asked in five or ten years. “Isn’t he the one who died fighting against the rogue officers?” 

Thirdly, I hope they will be so fed up with my publications that I will be released from prison to shut up forever, for instance, under the condition of absolute silence and home arrest. 

Fourthly, I enjoy writing, which is my new hobby. My other hobbies are photos and sports, but I cannot do them here. I have even taken some books on how to write texts from the library. 

Moreover, I write a lot about the violations in my case, my detention in prison, and such publications cause more response than complaints. This is my method for fighting for my rules.

Fifthly, the struggle for justice has always been in my blood; I have probably inherited it from my father. Even as a child, I always protected the children who were bullied and often had uneven fights with the bullies. Iarin, Vorobev and Tkachev acted like gangsters and blackmailed me with my children and family. Of course, I am indignant and want revenge. I want Russia to get rid of such public servants!

Doesn’t anyone see what is happening in Russia? The Federal Council and the State Duma together with the Government and the President fail to control the law enforcement authorities, which have turned into the penal octopus striving for personal enrichment and abuse of power rather than national interests. Let me be the boy from the fairy tale who said in front of everyone, “The king is naked!” However, I try to criticise the government institutions based the evidence and point at those who violate the law: billionaire general of the Federal Security Service abusing personal trouble to earn money under the disguise of protection of national interests. Billionaire Governor Vorobev is another evil as he has contaminated the entire Moscow Region and created the corruption vertical which Cosa Nostra would envy.

My publications and complaints about the violations in Lefortovo drove its head Romashin crazy, so I was reprimanded for keeping around 20 omeprazole pills (for my duodenal ulcer), which I had got in Medical Unit 77 in Matrosskaia Tishina. Such revenge looked quite disgusting and cynical. Also, the detention centre blocked all the pills in the packages my wife had brought to the hospital and stole my blood glucose meter. I did not get medicines for a month despite my diabetes and ulcer. During a month in Lefortovo, I got 10 % of the necessary pills prescribed by the doctor at most. I was always given no pills when I went to the hearing. Moreover, they took away the pills I had in my pockets after the hospital. I wrote numerous complaints about deprivation of medical care. I made arrangements to see the doctor every day, but I was not taken there; probably, they wanted to demonstrate who the master was. 

My publications on hundreds of millions of roubles wasted this year to repair the detention centre, which exceeded the commercial prices many times, caused the public stir. The reprimand was not the last thing Romashin did to take revenge. He found another extravagant pretext. He demanded to explain why I asked the warehouseman at the checkpoint why my essential personal belongings had not been given out for more than a month although I had filed more than ten statements. They said I could not speak during the transfer. But I was stopped by the building guard’s question, so I responded and asked the warehouseman about my stuff. A reprimand deprives of the right to be released on parole in prison. I do not care about their revenge: I am not going to be released on parole as I know that nobody gets the sentence of less than 10 or 15 years in Lefortovo. 

“If you keep writing, you will get 15 to 20 years,” the investigators and officers of the Federal Security Service tell me. I believe that. The diagnosis will be “cardiac failure”. 

I am well aware of the fact that the senior executives of the detention centre do what the Federal Security Service says. It was demonstrated another time when practitioner Ilia said that the senior executives had approved my examination in Bakulev Centre to check the carotid artery stegnosis, and all we had to do was to conclude an agreement and pay. When Iulia paid more than a hundred thousand roubles for the coronarography and other examinations, the head of the medical unit said that he also needed the investigator’s permission. They started playing table tennis with me the same way they did at the election. 

I asked investigator Pisarev in the court room when he had refused to give his permission for the examination, 

“Won’t you have any trouble if I die without carotid artery stenting?”

“Are you threatening me?” 

“No, I’m just wondering. No threats.”

“Then what’s the problem? Your death is not our problem,” the officer of the Investigative Committee finished our conversation lazily.

On 19 November, I was summoned to the meeting of the committee chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Iterman in charge of the detention conditions. There were about ten people, and I knew only half of them. There was Head of the Medical Unit Aleksakov, a psychologist etc.

Andrei Viktorovich Iterman started asking me questions about suicide and whether I had ever considered.

“How many requests for medical care have I submitted? Do you want me to die by depriving me of medicines and doctors?” I responded with the question to the question. “Then you plant me the “terrorist”, who attacks me! Then you grab my four-year-old child by his shoulder! You are driving me crazy on purpose!”

“When asked what your last name was, you introduced yourself with another name?” Andrei Viktorovich asked me another question.

“I always use my last name, but when I am asked three or four times, I sometimes say the name of head of the detention centre Romashin to wake them up and listen to my answers more attentively; in the end, I always say that I am Shestun.”

“Have you tried to attack the wardens?” Iterman asked a stupid question.

“Mister Iterman, what the hell are you talking about? I have never tried or considered that. I am not a fan of violence. It is 200 % true, not even 100 %,” I resented.

It was how it ended. I looked at the sleepy faces of the committee members and went to the cell. On my way there, I was thinking what dirty trick they could be preparing. They have no idea of how to break me down; their criminal case is falling apart, and I am causing lots of trouble for the Federal Security Service, the Investigative Committee and Lefortovo with my publications and complaints. As far as I get it, they want to add these “lines” to my personal file to control me better: “capable of suicide”, “prone to escape” etc. I am taken for a walk and to the senior executive’s office by three wardens while the others need one. Moreover, there is always a video recorder, which is a very rare thing for other prisoners.

Of course, they are getting what they want. In fact, it is very difficult to be in Lefortovo from the moral point of view. They say in the detention centre that ultra sound is also turned on to unbalance the prisoners. It can be seen by how a TV works: a channel with an excellent picture suddenly gets such terrible noises that you cannot watch it. Their administrative office and the building where their offices are is much bigger than the prison itself for a good reason.

***

Today I have opened the book by Evgeniia Ginzburg, The Steep Route, about Stalin’s forced labour camps and prisons for the first time. I have a tradition of opening the book in the middle and applying the first phrase to myself like a fortune teller. I do not remember in which of the books a man used the text to tell the fortune. Amazing. I read the piece where the main character was happy that she was sent to Butyrka from Lefortovo, “Yes, yes, let’s hurry... To Butyrka! It seems like home now. <...> And here, in Lefortovo, there is no chance. It is the seventh circle of Dante’s hell. There is only Death here. <...> It means we have really left the area of the lethal Lefortovo politeness.”

General of the Investigative Committee Drymanov, who is held here now, used to say in his office for a good reason,

“A year in Lefortovo is enough for a man to bear necessary testimony; everyone can be broken.” 

In fact, I never saw the sun in a month and a half in Lefortovo. You could stand on the bench and feel the sun rays on your face in the walking yard, but now the sun is lower, and the windows have been covered with the matte film and locked. It is depressing...

My birthday was neither positive. In fact, I have never liked this celebration. Lots of people came and said long speeches, but I realised they were talking to my office rather than me. However, it is one thing to understand and the other thing to feel this difference yourself. I got congratulations only from my relatives and old ladies from Lipitsi, Bolshevik, Borisov and communist veterans from Kurilovo. Obolensk and Proletarskoe forgot about me. The district administration, the housing enterprises, sports, cultural and educational facilities did not remember me. I am not offended because I understand what the implications of such congratulations could be. It means this is the price to pay.

 

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