I recollected my father’s tragic death and constrained reaction of the surrounding people in these hard days of massive betrayal. Those were hard times, I had faced many difficulties during the election for the office of the head of the district. The day before the election, grenade F-1 had been thrown at me; my security guard Sergei Podlovilin got two fragment wounds (I was standing one meter away from him). Our Volvo was peppered, and the windows on the first and second floors of the nine-floor apartment block where our office was located were smashed.

Serpukhov Mayor’s Office that wished its candidate Roman Gorbunov to win the election for the office of the Head of Serpukhov District tried to deepen their influence that way. They had launched the black PR campaign against me and used the arguments “Shestun is a gangster”, “Shestun is a murderer” as a scarecrow; instead, they made me more popular. Gennadii Nedoseka, the Head of Chekhov District nearby, was very popular in South Moscow Region despite his criminal past. He managed to turn the third-rate district centre into the well-developed modern town and made Chekhov the sports capital of Moscow Region.

I would like to give several bright examples as an illustration of the election campaign in Serpukhov District in 2003. I once came to Proletarskii Village to meet the local residents. People started clapping when I was introduced in Lira Palace of Culture. Aleksandr Kukushkin, the director of the brick plant and quite a popular candidate for the office of the head of the district, ran onto the stage at once, 

“Who are you greeting, people? He is a friend of gangster Nedoseka from Chekhov, the one who has buried nine people in the concrete!” 

A flamboyant old lady sitting in the first row stood up, rearranged her scarf, and objected,

“And what? Buried nine people? But other people live a happy life!” 

The second case happened in Vasilkovskoe Village, where I had only one meeting held in the local club during the election campaign in December 2003. I was introduced to the residents’ applause. Before my speech, an active old lady in the centre of the hall said,

“Aleksandr Viacheslavovich, we know you are a gangster, so we have decided to vote for you!”

I came up to the stand and objected harshly,

“I am not a gangster and have never been one!”

“Don’t you try to scare us, it is our common decision!” she summed up.

However, Colonel General Boris Gromov, the Governor of Moscow Region, did not like the newly-elected head of the municipality having the mafia leader’s reputation. Moreover, Head of Serpukhov Pavel Zhdanov stirred up the scandal. Boris Vsevolodovich introduced the external administration (the territorial executive government authority), and Mikhail Leontev, the first deputy head of the city, was appointed the head of that authority. I was deprived of all the powers, I was not even admitted into the building of the Moscow Region Government while the Moscow regional and Serpukhov newspapers kept defaming me. 

My father worried a lot when he read those terrible articles. When he had run out of patience, Viacheslav Aleksandrovich Shestun took a pile of the newspapers and went to his communist friends in Moscow to complain. He had not told us about it, and when his neighbour said that the father’s dog had been wailing for several days, we started active search. After we had called all the hospitals and mortuaries in Moscow, we found him in the Baumanskii Forensic Mortuary where all the unidentified bodies, including homeless people and the ones dying or killed in the street, were brought.

On 25 January, my father was travelling from Chistye Prudy Metro Station to Komsomolskaia Metro Station, where he was going to take a suburban train, but he died on the way there. His body was removed from the train at Sokolniki Station by Police Captain Levshin, who had registered it as an unidentified corpse.

When my father’s stuff was given back to my brother Igor, there was a passport and two business cards in the bag filled with the newspapers defaming me. Why didn’t Captain Levshin notify us as prescribed by the law? There was a mobile telephone number on the business card of my brother Igor Shestun, the Director of the City Theatre and a deputy of Serpukhov; also, there was my business card of the Head of Serpukhov District with my mobile phone numbers. The officer was dismissed, and we could not get to meet him to find out details of that tragedy and negligence. As my father’s body had been held in the mortuary with no fridge, in a pile of corpses in an ordinary room, the cause of his death could not be determined for sure.

My father was an orthodox communist, his Russian Communist Party led by Anatolii Kriuchkov did not recognise Gennadii Ziuganov and cooperated with Sazhi Umalatova, Viktor Anpilov and the other extreme left. In Serpukhov, Viacheslav Aleksandrovich chaired the local branch of the party, distributed their newspapers and communicated with lots of people. Also, he used to be the chairman of the corporate apartment building where we lived. 

We expected lots of people to come to his funeral. However, except for relatives, few people came to pay him last respects. Everyone was afraid that the shadow of disgrace of powerful Governor Gromov would fall on them as well. That is why few people came to express their condolences to our family. I was so distressed with my father’s death and felt personally responsible what had happened that I did not want to live on that frosty day on 31 January.

People were afraid to greet me openly and looked around before shaking my hand. The same thing is happening now in an exaggerated manner. Many people not only refuse to support my family in the hardships, but also try to give them the harder time, and they genuinely enjoy the process.

As I have written before, like any other man’s life, my life always goes along the sinusoidal wave and brings me to the very bottom approximately once every five years, and I fall deeper and deeper every time. I can even remember a common saying, “I thought I had reached the bottom when I heard someone knock from below.”



When I broke free from Lefortovo into prison hospital of Matrosskaia Tishina in the warm evening on 24 August and got into luxurious pink cell 726 with my perfect cell mates, the story of the man who had died of cancer in the infectious disease department that day did not distress me. You can die of cancer anywhere, I thought, it is better than “torture with electric current to death” and “suicide” like in Lefortovo. Only then, when the elation caused by the quality of life in the hospital had passed, I noticed how many elderly people who could not even go for a walk were there. There were so many people suffering from cancer, insulin-dependent diabetes, heart diseases with implanted electric cardiac pacemaker, the people who had several heart attacks and blood strokes.

The cell mates of the man who died of lymph gland cancer in the infectious disease department that day had told the staff about the man’s fever so many times. The tonsils pills he had been prescribed were of no use. Cancer was diagnosed much later. The patient never complained, never asked to release him based on Resolution No. 3 of the Government of the Russian Federation on Medical Examination, never insisted, so the doctors never hurried. Anna Karetnikova, the only person in the Federal Penitentiary Service who takes everything to heart and tries to help those in distress, was indignant and pulled everyone about. 

Anna Georgievna was born in Moscow in 1970 in the family of the sound director and the film expert, and she has two children. She graduated from the Law Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. She worked for the human rights defence centre “Memorial” and often went to Chechnya and Ingushetia in connection with violation of human rights. Then she was one of the most active members of the public monitoring commission of Moscow. She is a member of the Union of Writers of Russia. Now she holds the office of the lead analytical specialist of the Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Moscow. In fact, she is mother Teresa for prisoners. 

In Russia, there are many more deaths in prisons in comparison with the European countries in percentage terms. This case has been characterised brightly by Karetnikova’s colleague, Iurii Ledov,

“We are so afraid to make a mistake and release... a healthy one! What if he does not die in a month?”

Take 66-year-old Viktor Abrosichnik accused under Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, who can hardly live up to the end of his sentence with all his diseases. Why hold the death sick man in prison until the court verdict?

Nizami Iusubov I know well from the stories of his countryman Roman Manashirov also has no chances to see the end of his sentence. Nizami is held in Matrosskaia Tishina in the sixth special unit in cell 614 together with my temporary hospital cell mate Ruslan Bashirov. Ruslan is a doctor, and he has saved 66-year-old Iusubov from numerous terrible hypertensic crises against the background of his many years of diabetes. His glucose level reaches 20 mmol/L while his blood pressure is 220/130. 

According to the investigators, Nizami Iusubov organised illegal migration of fifteen hundred people from Vietnam and Tajikistan, who made pirated goods for Cherkizovo Market. The recent suspect was Zhan Rafailov, who had provided testimony against Manashirov, so he was cleared off the charges under major Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Criminal Gang”. Manashirov was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment because he had helped Zhan Rafailov get the medical opinion stating that he could not be held in prison due to his disease. 

Rafailov was released based on that opinion and left for Switzerland, but then he was guaranteed that his proceedings would be terminated in exchange for the testimony against Manashirov, so he returned and now enjoys his life in Rublevka. Well... Russia is the country of traitors.

Colonel Viktor Rubashkin, the investigator of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Main Department of the MIA, was fined by the court in exchange for his plea bargain in the case while Vladimir Andrievskii, another investigator from the Investigative Committee who had refused to testify against the others was sentenced to eleven years of high-security imprisonment. Vadim Okutov, the doctor who had given the medical opinion to Rafailov, got a suspended sentenced and was released right in the court room. 

The acquaintances of mine from Mozhaisk Prison said that Vadim was well respected there, behaved honestly and according to the rules, and even was an underboss in the cell. The speech of that well-educated man changed beyond recognition: he started using the criminal slang and prison lifestyle principles. 

Every morning, during the examination, Nizami Iusubov complains of high blood pressure and glucose level as well as headaches despite the fact that he takes 10 to 15 pills a day, but the medical assistant of the Federal Penitentiary Service says there is nothing he can do. 

Nizami has been in prison for more than two years. As the attorneys knowing his case have told me, he has been sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment under Part 1 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. It is a death sentence! Moreover, despite his disastrous health condition, Jew Nizami is not admitted to hospital. 



Why is the state executing the man? Because he made pirated goods? China used to award for that some time ago. In any other country, a large fine would be imposed. Executing for an economic crime?! I do not understand. Maybe, I am stupid? Dear citizens of Russia, please explain. How can you be treated as a criminal in sewing business? Then 90 % of the Russian top-rank officials must be sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption, legalisation of illegally acquired property, betrayal of the interests of the state and cashout abroad! 

Isn’t it common knowledge which of the ministers administers a certain business area? How many children and wives of senior executives of the law enforcement authorities have suddenly turned onto billionaires? Most information is public, and operational summaries show every stolen penny, but there is no political will to investigate the facts.



There is an extraordinary case of 27-year-old sick Aleksandr Gorshkov who was convoyed from Udmurtia Correctional Facility No. 6 to have his electric cardiac pacemaker replaced due to the discharged battery. Aleksandr was convoyed to the Moscow Regional Scientific and Research Clinical Institute, where it turned out that his medical device had a manufacturing defect, had worked for a year only and could result in the patient’s death. The electric cardiac pacemaker installed on the outside before had been working for 12 years with no faults. In hospital, the wardens handcuffed Gorshkov to the surgical table despite the general anaesthesia and his chest ripped open.

Sasha Gorshkov, a resident of Elektrougli in Noginsk District and an artist who regularly took part in graffiti contests of the youth department, had a weakness: he could take amphetamine to get a creative inspiration, to stipulate his heart and improve his condition when he had to work for a long time. 

On 7 April 2017, Gorshkov was sentenced by the Noginsk District Court under Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He has been to many central prisons in Nizhny Novgorod, Kirov, Ivanov, Kazan and Ulianovsk. His wife and little daughter are waiting for him at home. I have known Iurii Butusov, the Head of Elektrougli where Aleksandr lives, for more than 15 years, since the times when he was the chairman of the security and law enforcement committee in the Moscow Regional Duma. This town settlement has been disestablished, like all the others in Moscow Region.

I am not trying to acquit Aleksandr Gorshkov, but if the man has had the disease on the list of the ones giving the right to be released with the diagnosis “post-myocardial cardiosclerosis”, heart disorders and transitory atrioventricular block of the second degree (the third one is necessary to be released), the list could easily be expanded for the humane reasons. The principle under which the prisoner released based on the medical opinion must not live longer than a month is not very humane and very expensive for the state. That is why Russian prisons and prison settlements are filled with thousands of people suffering from tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis C, who are a major hazard for anyone they contact. The facilities of the Federal Penitentiary Service do not provide for quarantine.

Medical staff of the Federal Penitentiary Service are of double nature: on the one hand, they have taken the Hippocratic Oath; on the other hand, they are an integral part of the penal system. Unfortunately, most of them forget in the course of time that they are doctors and treat people as criminals rather than patients; this is the only way to survive in this system. 

In prison hospital, young nurse Mariana Akusheva from Kabardino Balkariya, who studies at medical university, is a good example of an angel of mercy. Dinar Tagirovich Gaisin, the Chief Medical Officer, often emphasis that his staff are doctors in the first place, and no matter who is putting pressure on them, they must treat the patient based on his health condition only. In fact, his words are inconsistent with the reality.

As soon as Gaisin had returned from his leave, I made an arrangement with him in order to dispel the investigators’ fantasies and malevolence. In the beginning, investigator Vidiukov assured my attorney that I would not be held in hospital for more than a week, and then he misinformed my defenders by saying that I had already been returned to Lefortovo. Then he claimed that I had eaten graphite to provoke the duodenal ulcer; in response, Dinar Tagirovich laughed and dispelled all that mudslinging and wild guesses. 

In the receiving room, I saw the young man with the bandaged jaw and Georgian face today. I asked him whether he was Malkhaz Dzhavoev. 

“Yes, I am Malkhaz.” 

“I have heard of your scandalous story, let’s meet. I would like to find out more about your accident,” I finished the conversation as I was convoyed, and he was waiting for the dentist, who had performed an operation on his jaw, but it grew back together improperly, so Dzhavoev suffered from strong pain. Although the local dentist had a certificate of the oral surgeon, Malkhaz, who had fallen victim to his “professional qualifications”, demanded a consultation in civil hospitals and even went on a hunger strike when he was in the sixth special unit in Matrosskaia Tishina.

Nachmuddin from Dagestan, “tramp” Don, tried to persuade Dzhavoev not to go on a hunger strike “not to wash dirty linen in public”, and he promised to settle the issue with the senior executives of the detention centre. After the had waited for a week, but it was of no use, Malkhaz started his protest.

He was transferred to the ground floor to the single cell, where he was on a hunger strike for about two weeks. Now he has been admitted to prison hospital. Malkhaz was initially held in Kremlevskii Tsentral in Matrosskaia Tishina, detention centre 99/1, where the confinement rules are as strict as in Lefortovo. The detention centre is also governed by the Federal Security Service.



The investigative authorities instituted criminal proceedings against 38-year-old Malkhaz Dzhavoev from Tbilisi on the suspicion of murdering Olga Demina, the ballet dancer of the Bolshoi Theatre. 23-Year-old Olga went missing at night on 20 August 2014. According to the investigators, Dzhavoev killed her and hid the corpse, which still has not been found. All Moscow was filled with posters with Demina’s photo, who had come to the capital city from Kirov. 

Malkhaz met Olga in 2012, and their relations are interpreted by the parties differently: from friendly and intimate to business and even criminal ones. The warden who was taking me along the hospital corridor when I saw Dzhavoev said that, by the way, according to his information, Malkhaz had not killed the ballet dancer. 

At the beginning of July 2018, the investigator visited Dzhavoev in detention centre 99/1 and demanded to plead guilty of the crimes under Article 159 “Fraud”, Article 209 “Banditry” and Article 105 “Murder” of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. When Malkhaz refused, the prisoner who had come together with the investigator beat him savagely and broke his jaw and ribs. In the end, the attacker was not found. All the prisoners in Matrosskaia Tishina discussed that incident in Kremlevskii Tsentral.

The practice of placing fake prisoners is very common in Russian prisons, but it is usually done for in-cell investigations to find out secrets of the accused during frank night conversations; it is called a sweatbox and usually done by the order of the Federal Security Service. Prisoners, even the ones held in hospital, are often beaten savagely. For instance, Gafur Amirov, the owner of the cafe from Teikov accused under Article 163 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Extortion”, was beaten right in the building of the Timiriazevskii Court, where the court session was conducted by judge Vera Astafieva. While Gafur was waiting to be taken to hospital after the litigation in the cell in the Timiriazevskii Court, his cell mate started asking to take him to the toilet loudly. The special force officers in the black uniform rushed into the cell and beat him savagely; the Kalmuch was especially active. In the middle of September, Amirov showed me dark red scratches and scars all over his body; I suggested that he should have the injuries recorded and file a statement. According to him, they were police or National Guard officers rather than bailiffs. In a few days, on 17 September, his cell mate in hospital, Nikolai Fadeev, slipped into the hypoglycemic coma. Gafur kept kitting the iron bowl against the door from five until half past seven in the morning trying to rescue his call mate and call doctors. Nikolai Fadeev and Gafur Amirov are both insulin-dependent diabetic patients. Both are held in Vodnik, the fifth detention centre, and are people with disabilities.



The same evening, while I was sitting next to the medical treatment room and waiting for an injection, we exchanged the news and, after Gafurov’s sad story, listened to the hilarious story by my old acquaintance, former deputy of the State Duma Vadim Varshavskii. On 19 July 2018, the Tverskoi Court extended his arrest until 20 October and accused him of stealing 2.5 billion roubles from Petrokommerts Bank. According to the investigators, the company controlled by Vadim entered into the bank loan agreement in 2008, but it failed to fulfil its obligations. Varshavskii was the director of the Rostov Electrometallurgy Plant and DonBioTech Plant processing grain. The business community was surprised with Vadim’s arrest as he was famous all over Russia as a founder of many successful companies in agriculture, industry and metallurgy. 

On 29 July 2012, the Zlatoust Metallurgy Plant received the loan of 2.783 billion roubles from Petrokommerts Bank, allegedly to replenish the company’s circulating assets, but in 24 hours the money was transferred to several companies controlled by Mechel, the metallurgic colossus, that wanted to pick up the bad asset and claimed in all the mass media that it was going to support Zlatoust Metallurgy Plant JSC, but in the end the latter was left alone with its liabilities to the bank.

So, Anastasiia Dziurko, the press secretary of the Tverskoi Court, told about the hearing on 19 July and extension of the arrest, but she failed to mention the incident Varshavskii described vividly against the background of bursts of the prisoners’ laughter next to the medical treatment room. When he was sitting in the cell in room 22, Vadim asked judge Anatolii Belekov to let him go to the toilet several times, but he was not allowed to every time. When he ran out of patience and did not want to shit his pants, Varshavskii undressed right in the cell in the court room, crapped onto the newspaper and asked the prosecutor to give him a peace of paper to wipe his bottom. Of course, the response was threats regarding disrespect for the court, criminal liability and other outcries by the law enforcement officers. I had never heard prisoners laughing so sincerely before.




Светлана Астраханцева
Нам выпало время, когда белое становится черным, а черное – белым…
Григорий Михнов-Вайтенко
Пример Шестуна – это пример в истории, я бы сказал. Чаще всего такой человек предпочитает тихо и незаметно, извините за выражение, отползти в угол, и очень редко, когда вступает на путь правдорубца.
Людмила Улицкая
Понимание и попытка разрешения "мусорной" проблемы вызвали конфликт Шестуна с властью. Не просто с властью, а с самым сердцем нашей власти - с ФСБ. Люди должны встать на защиту Александра Шестуна. И к этому я призываю.

Записки Шестуна