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REBELLIOUS PRISONER. CHAPTER SEVEN

BATTLE FOR THE HOSPITAL
BATTLE FOR THE HOSPITAL

15.08.2018

Tonight, doctor Ilia came to me and said that the senior executives had decided to send me to Matrosskaia Tishina for examination; of course, I perceived it positively although any movement was a great stress, especially after such a long hunger strike. They obviously meant the temporary admission to hospital, but any breath of fresh air was necessary.

The good thing about Matroska is that the attorney can come there every day, there is e-mail correspondence, a cafe and other freedoms. Of course, my health will be improved. Moreover, it is a captivating trip and change of scene, where I will be able to see lots of new people with their interesting stories and write about them in the future. It is difficult to find another hobby in prison, and it is also of practical use in my case: abuse and orders with regard to me and other famous people are discussed in public. There is hope that our voices will be heard up there. Also, as they say, misery loves company.

Our cell is mourning today. Manashirov came back from court black-faced: the prosecutor had asked to imprison him for fifteen years. He kept moaning in his sleep all night; I had never heard anything like that before. Roman was especially upset with the reaction of his eighty-year-old mother, who had a heart attack in court. They had requested six years of imprisonment for the episode with the telephone he had got from cook Petia who gave us meals daily.

When the cook brings food to our cell, he comes in and keeps whispering, “They made me do that! Federal Security Service! They set me up! Sorry!” I have been on a hunger strike for eighteen days, so they do not put the food in the opening in the door; they bring it inside because of my refusal to eat, so it stands there in front of me all the day long.

The prosecutor requested nine years for Manashirov for the alleged intermediation in the bribe, which Zhan Rafailov, the co-owner of the Cherkizovo Market, had allegedly given to be released from prison five years ago. They added several other crimes so that Roma would be imprisoned longer than murderers and thieves stealing billions of the state-owned property.

Of course, after Rafailov had filed a statement against Manashirov, and after the arrest of the latter, Rafailov’s criminal proceedings based on the especially grave crime under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Criminal Gang” (instituted for the huge batch of the goods smuggled to the Cherkizovo Market for the amount of two billion dollars) were traditionally terminated. Then Zhan Rafailov and Telman Ismailov were shown on all the national TV channels as the main criminals.

In the evening, I got a very unpleasant piece of news that I would not be sent to Matroska and would be sent to the civil hospital for five days, not to be treated, but to be examined in order to find out whether I can stay in prison in my condition. The list was short, mostly composed of the diseases like cancer killing people in less than a year. No attorney would be admitted there. I would be transferred in the prison truck together with my stuff, following many hours of searches. In other words, the trip will last all day, but the hunger striker has weakened me. Today I will refuse from this “kind” offer by the senior executives of Lefortovo. Even if I am forced to go there, I will not say a word and will refuse from any examinations.

The refusal to transfer me to Matroska, where I would be treated for at least a month, means that I am totally controlled by the Federal Security Service, and this is incredibly upsetting. Another distressing thing is that it would be no use staying on a hunger strike in Matroska because attorneys come there every day; also, they did not prevent me from granting a power of attorney for the election. Moreover, it would be great to stop the long hunger strike under medical supervision. My bowels could be examined and probably treated. Come to think of it, I have already set my heart on it, and suddenly everything has changed. Anyone would be upset. Unfortunately, now I have no reason to stop the hunger strike although its duration is almost critical.

I met Romashin, the head of the second detention centre, in the office of the chief medical officer, where I was threatened that if I refused, I would be taken to the civil hospital for five days by force. The attorney who had asked to send me for medical examination to the authorised hospital withdrew his application.

I do not know what this circus will be grounded on. Probably, they need a pretext to tell everyone that Shestun has refused from treatment on his own. 

21.08.2018

Today I was visited by the attorneys, Andrei Grivtsov with his assistants Sergei and Pasha Bespalov. Andrei works with three detainees in Lefortovo. One of them is Mikhail Maksimenko, the Internal Security Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the only general of the Investigative Committee who had refused from the plea bargain and was sentenced to thirteen years of imprisonment; he is going to be taken to prison settlement soon. He was at war in Chechnya, has some battle injuries, a shell shock and major health issues. He has also been convicted of the bribes taken many years ago, based on nothing but testimony by the witness. Nikandrov and Lamonov from the Investigative Committee were sentenced to five years because they had cooperated with the investigators and gave all of their accomplices away. They might be released on parole in a year and a half. Given the adopted law according to which a year in the detention centre is equal to a year and half in the prison settlement, they might be released even faster. If you cooperate with the Federal Security Service and the Investigative Committee, you will be home soon; if you stand your ground, you will be imprisoned for thirteen years.

Maksimenko is very suspicious, and he does not even drink water from the bottles sold in Lefortovo stalls: he is afraid of being poisoned. He thinks that running water is the safest.

His suspicions as regards water are reasonable. For instance, Sugrobov often told his companions in the prison truck that when he went for a walk, someone added psychoactive substances into his water so that he would admit something at the interrogation. After that, he need half a day to come round.

Maksimenko is oversensitive about his detention; he hears voices from sockets and walls, which, by the way, is quite a common thing here. He is not the only one to complain. For instance, Manashirov’s cell mates, Ergashev and Dmitrii Sergeev, a founder of Baltstroi and a well-built and pragmatic businessmen, have often mentioned that as well. Maksimenko has even been taken to Cat’s House once (that’s how they call the mental hospital of the Federal Penitentiary Service at Butyrka).

I asked the attorneys to tell Iulia not to do what they asked her to do. My wife’s visit to Romashin, the head of Lefortovo, gave her nothing but humiliation. Anyway, he will do what is he told to by the Federal Security Service. The attorney told me about Iulia’s impressions, how the chief medical officer Pavel Aleksakov and Aleksei Alekseevich himself giggled. “Let’s see him released from prison with his diseases!” they clowned about. Of course, she compared the head of Vodnik, the fifth detention centre, Papusha with Romashin. “He is more humane!” these were Iulia’s words about the head of Vodnik.

I recalled my detention in the fifth detention centre. It seemed to be a fashionable resort in comparison with gloomy and dull Lefortovo where life seems to have stopped. I often recollect merry faces of the men detained there, heart-to-heart talks, chess tournaments, exciting tennis games until we sweated our guts out, and frequent sincere laughter of my cell mates.

During the month I spent in Vodnik and socialised with hundreds of people, I never heard anyone complain of their hard luck, which I often hear now. While I was speaking to the members of the public monitoring commission in the office of the acting head of Lefortovo, Colonel Aleksandr Khanov, I regretted not hearing laughter there; in response, Aleksandr Yurevich seriously responded,

“The internal rules forbid laughing.”

I have written an invitation to visit me to Pamfilova, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, and to Fedotov, the Chairperson of the Council for Human Rights. I am definitely grateful for their attempt to defend my rights, but they left me midway for some reason after they had faced their minor difficulties and my tragedy. But for their active interference, I would still be in Vodnik in humane conditions instead of dying in this horrible Château d'If. Fedotov and Pamfilova must have received some unpleasant comments from the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation because they had tried to support me. Still, I hope they have some principles and determination to finish what they have started. Another upsetting thing that I have not been allowed to run for the election although I have not been convicted and have the constitutional right to take part in it.

There have been no visitors from the public monitoring commission for two weeks, and here they are, like a flow. Of course, I am glad because any meeting with people, especially with the ones who must help you, is pleasant. All of them are different and interesting in their own way. The day before yesterday, Zhenia Enikeev, a skinny developer and IT specialist, young and compassionate, was accompanied by a brutal short-haired and well-built man in his 40s. Of course, they immediately started talking about he hunger strike and the ways to stop it. We talked in the presence of the Head of the Treatment Department of Lefortovo, Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Iterman. All our meetings and each move I make are video recorded by the officers of the Federal Penitentiary Service. They even make records when they bring and leave food in the cell.

The first thing I asked the newcomer from the public monitoring commission to do was to introduce himself. 

“Dmitrii Viktorovich Komnov,” he said dryly.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I am retired.”

“What did you do before? You are too young.”

“Federal Penitentiary Service.”

“Where exactly in the Federal Penitentiary Service?” I insisted.

“I was the head of the prison at Presnia and Butyrka,” he squeezed out finally.

“Prison keeps attracting you even after you have retired,” I thought. The former head of Butyrka kept making a surprised face and humming while I was telling about numerous bans in Lefortovo. He was absolutely stunned by the fact that they were going to take me to the civil hospital for medical examination by force. The day before, Romashin and chief medical officer Pavel Aleksakov had told me that I would not be allowed to Matroska because I was subject to special control by the Federal Security Service; instead, I would be taken to the twentieth hospital for five days for my own benefit.

“Are you going to take me there for sure death?” I asked Aleksakov, indignant with the chief medical officer’s actions. “You have taken the Hippocratic Oath. You will sink into the earth! You will burn in hell! It is obvious that Romashin is on the hook of the Federal Security Service, but you, the doctor, cannot behave like a Gestapo agent.”

The next day, on Saturday, I was attended by the members of the public monitoring commission Eva Merkacheva and Kogershyn Sagieva. Of course, I was happy to see one of my most determined and honest helpers Zhenia Enikeev, but it was especially pleasant to see girls in prison. Eva had written a big article about three detainees on a hunger strike in our prison and called the situation unprecedented; she also reproached me of continuing the hunger strike although I had promised to stop it right after the publication in the newspaper.

“The article is very good, but it has been posted on the website. Prisoners have no computers,” I objected. “Will chief editor Gusev allow printing the article about Shestun who has been put behind the bars by Vorobev? Given that the governor spends millions of dollars on advertising in the MK, and that the election campaign has reached its climax despite lack of competitors.”

“How is your daughter Alisa? Is she already three months?” I tried to change the subject of our conversation with the young mother. “How was you holiday, Kogershyn? Where did you go?”

“To Ural, my parents, Kurgan and Tyumen,” said the refreshed journalist of Dozhd.

Kogershyn hosts the weekly summary show of Dozhd, which I regularly watch, and I perceive her as a good acquaintance. I have known Eva much longer, I have called her and written to her on Facebook. After our meeting, she shared her impressions from my story in public,

“Aleksandr Shestun has long waited and hoped that this power of attorney will be signed, but it has not been done under different pretexts. It is emotionally exhausting to see that the things you have believed in and counted on turn out to be insignificant. It has knocked him down. To be honest, I was not shocked so much. I often see that. Yes, this is our reality.”

We shared our indignation with abuse of power of Lefortovo, especially denial of medial care. Merkacheva is the deputy chairperson of the public monitoring commission of Moscow and the most experienced member of the organisation, she knows all the official and inofficial rules. She almost whispered to me,

“You must understand that you will not be allowed to leave the detention centre for Matroska, even temporarily. You are under special control!”

We shook hands, and I walked along the echoing corridors back into my sell with the light soul and a boost of energy. There was Sunday ahead, and the weekend is the most terrible period in prison. There are no letters and newspapers, no attorneys, no sauna, no visits to a doctor or senior executives...

***

I would like to discuss the repression and attitude to prisoners and give some examples. My cell mate Roman has not been given the right to call his children and elderly mother, let alone a personal meeting, for three years. For instance, terrorists and drug dealers are not restricted in this right. The prosecutor has asked to imprison Manashirov for 15 years although even triple murderers are not sentenced for so long.

Anders Breivik, the famous Norwegian manic and shooter, killed 77 people on the island, and they have promised to release him from prison next year for exemplary conduct. Breivik has three-room accommodation of 75 square meters, a toilet and a kitchen as well as gym and his own study and bedroom. Moreover, he has sued 18,000 euros from the state because of the cold coffee brought by the warden.

In any prison in the world, you can make telephone calls with no restrictions. In many developed countries, prisoners are allowed to go home at the weekend. If a prisoner behaves good, he or she is given a three-week leave once a year, let alone the fact that the people are not generally kept in a detention centre until the court verdict on the merits.

I see how much money the government is spending to maintain 29,000 businessmen in custody in Russia now and making the country more and more depressed. It is well-known that if a rich man is put behind the bars, raiders offering to “resolve the issue” start circling around at once. The man who has suffered so much deprivation and torture in prison gets hardened in heart and feels deep hatred to the state and all of its institutions when he is released. Why create enemies for yourself? I do not understand... 

Of course, it is of short-term effect, fear is the main instinct for unconditional obedience, but the critical dissatisfaction is accumulated in the long run. It is very difficult to terrorise thousands of the offended and humiliated in XXI century, but other methods will be of no use.

Just like all common citizens, I did not use to pay attention to those suffering in prison, often for no reason, and I thought I would never face that. In fact, for instance, only when a person has cancer, he comes to understand how many people die of this disease without at least minimum treatment from the state.

Fairly speaking, I should say that Vodnik is not to everyone’s liking when compared to Lefortovo. Take Grisha Pirumov who was released right in the court room. He was sentenced to a year and a half, but he had already spent them in the detention centre (while he was free for six months, he managed to travel the world, but decided to stay in Russia). He was arrested again for the same episodes, accused under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and brought to Vodnik, the fifth detention centre. The tradition is that you are not imprisoned in Lefortovo twice. The well-educated Deputy Minister of Culture did nit like active life in Vodnik, so he used all his ties to be transferred to Lefortovo, where he loved the piece and quite. The traditions persist, so Pirumov was sent to Kremlevskii Tsentral; that is unit 99/1 of Matrosskaia Tishina, the same home territory of the Federal Security Service as Lefortovo, is called.

Kremlevskii Tsentral, where Minister Uliukaev was held in detention, offers much more comfortable conditions: cameras are twice as big as in Lefortovo, there is a separate toilet, hot running water, gym, canteen, e-mail correspondence, and attorneys can come every day if there is a need. Of course, alcohol, telephones and other freedoms existing in all the prisons are not allowed there.

As I have written, Dmitrii Sergeev, who has agreed to the plea bargain, is also held there. As a reminder, he ratted Pirumov out by entering into the plea bargain with the investigators, but in the end his imprisonment was longer than Grisha’s: four years of the suspended prison sentence. When he was leaving the court room, we was detained by the officers of the Federal Security Service again. Forty-year-old Sergeev is fully satisfied with his detention conditions there, he goes to the gym on a regular basis and is perfectly built now; he eats lots of the most expensive and high-quality food, reads little and accuses Mikhalchenko of all of his troubles. 

22.08.2018

Today, the 24th day of my hunger strike, is very busy. There are so many meetings that I can hardly walk by the midday. In the beginning, Mikhail Fedotov, the Chairperson of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, and Andrei Babushkin, came to our roof box where we walked. It was unexpected although I had invited him to visit me in Lefortovo. I knew that the day before Iulia had called him and asked to come to me and talk me into stopping the hunger strike.

Mikhail Aleksandrovich is very pleasant to talk to. He is refined to the marrow of his bones, and any meeting with him gives hope for the best; after all, he as an advisor of President Vladimir Putin.

I reminded him that his last visit to Vodnik, the fifth detention centre, where he had persuaded the senior executive to admit the notary to me resulted in my immediate transfer to Lefortovo, where I am suffering deprivation and trouble now.

After the meeting, he accompanied me to my cell by my request, to see the terrible conditions in which we had to live. Then he went to the office of Romashin, the head of the detention centre, and spoke to him behind the closed doors for about an hour. He was probably trying to settle the issue of my admission to the hospital at Matrosskaia Tishina.

Then I was attended by Ivan Melnikov and Sasha Ionov from the public monitoring commission who had the same purpose: to talk me into stopping the hunger strike, so the conversation was pointless, all about the same thing. Nevertheless, I am grateful to these young men for their work although their powers are limited.

23.08.2018

As soon as I had come back from the meeting with the members of the public monitoring commission, the warden told me in five minutes I had to go again. The point is that the trip to the senior executives in the administrative building is quite a long one, you must not meet the other detainees, which makes the trip even longer as the flows often cross. 

I had difficulty walking a long way. When I came to Vasilii Grama, the officer from the General Prosecutor’s Office, I was exhausted; nevertheless, our conversation about infringement on my rights in the detention centre took about two hours. As usual, I added numerous comments to his minutes and discussed lots of related issues. He is about 55, just like his colleague responsible for Lefortovo, Vladislav Lonchakov. I caught myself thinking that I found it more interesting to talk to mature men than to the young ones. They were either more interesting, or I was drawn to the people of my age on instinct.

As soon as I had reached the cell, I fell onto the bed and lay still for a long time. When the doctor asked me to come to him to the second floor to the medical unit, I refused from the daily examination, weighing and medical advice for the first time. It seemed I had never felt so exhausted before. I think the senior executives of the second detention centre were also exhausted by me; they had already compared me to another local rebel, Nikita Belykh, several times. Moreover, they claim I am even worse.

I am given an example of serial assassin Aslan Gagiev held in the adjacent cell and writing no complaints of the conditions of his detention in the detention centre. He supposes he is a real business who has suffered from the actions of former Minister of Energy of Russia Igor Iusufov, who took his business away.

The officers of the Federal Security Service, who had been investigating the case and had detained Gagiev nicknamed as Dzhako, asked me about his acquaintance from Ossetia, Deputy Head of the Police of the Department of Internal Affairs in Moscow Region Igor Bolloev, who had actively worked against me when I still held my office. I do not know his reasons for that. May be, it was his brother Stanislav who worked as the Head of the Office of Internal Affairs in Podolsk and was closely associated with the famous leaders who were known to have played the key role in my troubles.

It was popularly believed that the former Deputy Head of the Police of the Department of Internal Affairs in Moscow Region Bolloev was the main power broker in the department, was accompanied by the security guards and dealt with the issues that were beyond his competence: smuggling and illegal alcohol. He pertained to the immediate circle of General Viktor Paukov. 

***

I was told in the medical unit and by the senior executives today that they had decided to send me to the specialised hospital at Matrosskaia Tishina. Although I had been striving for that, it did not make me happy. Changing your place of stay is scary because opinions on the conditions there differ. Also, I do not know how much time I will be there. If it is a week, it is very bad. The trip there and back will exhaust me. Any settlement and adoption to new cell mates is a hard thing. I will not be able to return to Manashirov’s cell anymore: you are not placed into the cell with the same person again. The big question is who my new cell mate in Lefortovo will be. I will neither be held with the former law enforcement officers (they may only be held in cells with each other). The only people left are the detainees from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan accused of terrorism. It would be perfect to get to Konstantin Ponomarev. Dmitrii Mikhalchenko would also be a good option despite the fact that I have often been warned about his hot temper. One of Magomedov brothers would also be fine. 

I am not scared by the prospects to be held together with the baron of crime Iurii Pichugin or someone from the Dagestan government. As they say, better lose with the smart than find with the stupid.

   I should get from the cell on the ground floor, where I am now, to the upper first, second or third floor. Cells are warmer and larger there. Also, the walls downstairs are thicker, and they get thinner upstairs.

   For some reason, the terrorists from Central Asia are kept upstairs (they are approximately half of all the detainees); that is probably because they are not visited by attorneys, the senior executives and the public monitoring commission do not communicate with them, they are taken downstairs more rarely, so it is convenient to hold them upstairs. When the time for namaz, the Muslim prayer, comes, they hit walls with their cups to understand what time it is because there are no clocks and watches in prison, and few cameras have a TV.

 

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