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REBELLIOUS PRISONER. CHAPTER TWO

MOVING TO LEFORTOVO

MOVING TO LEFORTOVO

The interest in my story in Russia kept growing day by day. My wife Iulia and my children recorded a video address to the President of Russia, and the video was viewed by more than four million people and had thousands of comments in a week. Many people wrote that they had been impressed with what they saw, and the situation touched everyone’s feelings. Of course, I could not watch the address myself, but I can imagine the expression my children had, the power of their emotions and the extent of bitterness in their words and eyes. Few children must have such deep connection with their father. My love to them is endless, and daughter and sons return the love. It is impossible to imagine that I go to bed without their kiss or leave in the morning without a hug. Of course, Iulia plays a major role in here: she teaches the children to love and obey their father. I have not spent a single holiday without my children. I think that I have practically dedicated each weekend in many years to my family.

When in Vodnik, I prayed for my children and the family every day, I begged God to release me from that terrible place. It happened! Unfortunately, I was taken to a worse prison rather than home. Later, I was angry with myself for not valuing the fifth detention centre. 

I understand that the senior executives of Vodnik, the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, the investigators, the Federal Security Service and the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation were tired of my complaints. Nobody must have liked interference of Ella Pamfilova, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, into my fate. She had claimed many times that Shestun had the right to run for the election for the office of the Head of Serpukhov District, and nobody could prevent him. Many of the central mass media quoted Pamfilova, and the senior executives of the detention centre were fussy and nervous. By the way, she was going to visit me in Vodnik. But the climax of the pain in the neck for the detention centre bosses when I was visited by Mikhail Fedotov, the Chairperson of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, and Andrei Babushkin, his colleague from the Council for Human Rights on 16 July. Their visit sent the entire prison into a frenzy. The meeting was held in the office of Denis Papusha, the head of the fifth detention centre, and was attended by lots of colonels from the Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service. 

Fedotov and Babushkin claimed that they were concerned about the criminal case instituted against me on such dubious grounds, asked me about the conditions in the detention centre, and, which was most important, insisted in certification of the power of attorney to enable my participation in the election. In response, the head of the detention centre stood his ground and said that, according to law No. 103-ФЗ, all the actions associated with a power attorney had to be taken by permission of the investigator, who (needless to say) ignored all of our letters and just said no inquiries had been received, although we had sent more than ten. Even the fifth detention centre had sent five inquiries in this regard in my presence. Pamfilova, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, had also sent her inquiries to all the authorities, including the urgent letter to the Prosecutor General. Both Pamfilova and Fedotov were of the same opinion: no permission by the investigator was necessary to exercise my constitutional right to be elected.

After I had been visited by the Chairperson of the Council for Human Rights, the Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service, the investigators of the Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service in the fifth detention centre, the supreme authorities must have run out of patience, and the next day I was transferred to the second detention centre “Lefortovo” instead of getting a certified power of attorney, as Fedotov had been promised.

A transfer from one cell into another is shocking for anyone, and a transfer to another detention centre is a crushing blow. In Vodnik, I settled down in a month, purchased durable goods that could not be taken away, had the money deposited to my account despite the hardships so that I could get goods from the local shop, pay for the gym and order additional necessary products, and subscribed for newspapers and magazines. Of course, nothing can be taken away, either on legal grounds or as per prison rules. Moreover, it is physically impossible to carry all this stuff in your arms.

You are always given 10 to 15 minutes to get ready, and you are never told where you are taken: to another cell, another detention centre or may be even home... You just hear, “Pack your staff and leave.” The transfer was very hard, accompanied by long searches and examination of each item; it lasted from the afternoon till late night. A prison truck is another story. We collected our staff and stood in the yard of Vodnik for several hours awaiting for the bailiff with the notice from the Serpukhov Court associated with the district election. It was +30 outside and about +40 inside as the drivers do not start an engine when parked; therefore, there is no ventilation. But it was a walk in the park as compared to what I saw in Lefortovo, the gloomy Château d'If where people are brought to be broken and deprived of anything human.

I had read about the harsh rules in the second detention centre (that was how that place was called) many times, but what I saw exceeded any expectations. The experienced prisoners in Vodnik had warned me that if I continued such active defence, communication with human rights defenders, complaints and mass media publications, I would be transferred to Lefortovo, where it would be very difficult to see an attorney. In other words, they had described all the horrors. But I could not stop my fall as it would not be me otherwise. Moreover, many of the leading Russian politicians said my case was political, so I wondered, “Why not Lefortovo?” 

The prison in Lefortovo was constructed in the times of Emperor Alexander II, in accordance with the architectural rules. The interior here is similar to American films: the four-floor building has wide corridors with the “second light”, with no ceilings in the corridors up to the third floor. There are narrow paths along the cells, and the opposite parts of the building are connected by small iron bridges every 30 or 40 metres. It looks quite ominous and fundamental. I was consoled by the words of my acquaintance Katia, who had been imprisoned together with my deputy Elena Bazanova, “Imagine it’s a quest game.” I thought it was a good explanation similar to the truth as the main character of any adventure novel always found himself in prison. When why should I, the person having such a risky lifestyle, evade this fate?

I am deeply convinced, which is confirmed by the prisoners’ opinion, that Lefortovo is the “factory of death”, the place where you will is fully suppressed and the human dignity is destroyed. It is sort of deep freeze: no connection with the outer world. It is the only prison in the world where detainees do not see each other. There is a rule according to which only one detainee can go along the corridor, so the corridor guards keep calling to one another, “the fifth is coming”, “the fifteenth is getting in”. In other words, these are the traditions copying the times of the KGB and tsar customs. Alexander II had the prison constructed for military criminals and traitors of their Motherland. There was a cell of eight square meters per detainee. Two are kept in a cell know. Nothing else has changed since then.

Lefortovo is the only prison with no hot water in cell, with the iron cone-shaped toiler (which has nothing to do with an ordinary toilet) in the middle of the room, with no partitions, so your neighbour in two meters sees you easing yourself. It is very humiliating and insanitary. It is XXI century! What a shame! Moreover, the privy is also in the cross-hairs of the security cameras, and there are lots of female wardens.

It is the only prison in the country where electronic correspondence is not allowed (which is censored everywhere, of course). There are no additional meal services like in all the other prisons. My diabetes requires curd cheese, eggs and fish, which I cannot order now. The diet prescribed to me here is one little egg (a bit bigger than a quail one) every two days and a small carton of apple juice (for no good reason as it is not allowed for diabetes). No curd cheese is given.

There is no gym, and the walking yards of ten square meters have no horizontal bar like in the fifth detention centre. The knives given out in the daytime are plastic, and you cannot cut anything with them.

Yet, Lefortovo has many more wardens than Vodnik, but the order is no way better. Everyone knows that there is still a torture chamber in the cellar, and the detainees accused of terrorism, mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are tortured with electric current there. For instance, Bekhruz Makhmudov from Uzbekistan kept here has written many complaints of having been tortured with the electric current, with wires attached to his penis, which resulted in no erection for half a year. He sent letters to the Prosecutor General’s Office, human rights defenders and the President, but they were of no use. No wonder that the detainees often commit suicide. For instance, Taras, a former soldier from the air assault forces, recently hanged himself in the cell, and his neighbour Serazhitdin Ergashev went insane after he had seen that. Ergashev was taken to Butyrka’s madhouse called Cat's House, where he was beaten by the patients of that facility (I will tell about it in detail later), who had mostly been charged with murder. In the end, he managed to recover his state of mind, and after he had been transferred to prison, he said he would never live in Russia anymore and would go back to his Kirghizia. 

As for me, the most terrible thing about Lefortovo is not household inconveniences and even not these harsh and strict conditions. It is the total “freeze”. Attorneys cannot get in here for weeks as the detention centre only has six meeting rooms for 150 to 200 detainees, and defenders hold the draw to see their clients. In addition to absence of e-mail and to ordinary mail delayed for several days because of the censorship, you find yourself cut off from the outer world and turn into a rightless, helpless, blind, deaf and mute person.

In my letters, to the senior executives and human rights defenders, I ask what I am doing here. Why has the head of the village district been put behind the bars in Lefortovo together with terrorists, oligarchs, generals, governors and serial killers? There has never been a head of a municipality in this prison before. What makes me so dangerous for the state? The fact that I have recorded and published in the video address to the President of the Russian Federation that I am threatened to be imprisoned by Ivan Tkachev, the General of the Federal Security Service, and Andrei Iarin, the Head of the Interior Policy Directorate of the President of Russia, and demanded to resign? Let’s be honest, it looks indecent: two top figures and public officials threaten the father of many children that “we will take your house away, and you and your five children will turn to bag and wallet” in case of disobedience.

In fact, I must say Lefortovo is degrading. There were military criminals here in the times of Alexander II, traitors of the Motherland were put behind the bars in the Soviet Union, and only those who had been arrested for their crimes against the state were brought herein at the beginning of 2000s. Now there are also businessmen in the detention centre. The legendary prison is getting commercial, and its status has definitely been lowered by bringing me here.

My cell mate, billionaire Roman Manashirov, says that I am the first minor detainee he has seen in three years of his imprisonment here. Lefortovo has turned into the place for detention of the detainees who have been “ordered” although I must admit that there are more terrorists and traitors of the Motherland.

The best-know oligarchs here are Magomedov brothers: Magomed and Ziia. They have been in prison for two months based on Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Criminal Gang” although the brothers are nothing but businessmen; they are respected in Lefortovo. Their conduct is decent both in the business community and Dagestan itself. Whereas the arrest of all the government members (all of whom are here as well) was welcomed by the residents of the republic, the public response to the arrest of the Magomedovs was the opposite. 

Saint Petersburg “governor 24”, 45-year-old Dmitrii Mikhalchenko, is also famous. He built a large port in Saint Petersburg, owns the construction company Balstroi and numerous restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Mikhalchenko is a friend of the former Governors of the city on the Neva Valentina Matvienko and Georgii Poltavchenko, former Director of the Federal Protective Service Evgenii Murov, Viktor Voronin from K Directorate of the Federal Security Service of Russia, and Head of the Federal Customs Service Andrei Belianinov. He has 17 attorneys. Due to his claustrophobia, he suffered a lot during the first days of his arrest, yelled and demanded a bigger cell. 

Tkachev gave him as a an example of who a man can be imprisoned for anything when there is an order. Of course, billionaire Mikhalchenko had no need to carry wine in circumvention of the customs, it is not his level at all, no nobody is afraid of framing up cases today. Tkachev himself is proud of it and boasts about his capabilities.

The cells in Lefortovo are tiny. They are standard, 7.8 square meters. A while back, I did not believe Roma Manashirov, my neighbour, who claimed that he and Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Grisha Pirumov, with whom they had long been together in that cell and made friends, measured the walls thoroughly up to the millimetre. Nevertheless, we spent about an hour re-measuring the cell with a match box. That was true: 7.8 square meters, which is, by the way, less than four square meters as prescribed by the law. 

Nikita Belykh, the Governor of Kirov Region, was also kept in this cell, which was very difficult given his huge height and weight. He left for the prison camp in Riazan, where he is stocking up hay now. They say nobody liked him here, especially the staff of the detention centre. Belykh kept acting like a governor, complained a lot, treated everyone like his subordinates, and the senior executives of the detention centre transferred him to the cells where the detainees from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan accused of terrorism were kept. I must say that Belykh behaved decently, did not rat anyone out and did not plead guilty. He was a big man with a great spirit. The senior executives of the detention centre tortured him by refusing treatment although he had a swollen leg and type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes.

***

During a week here, I have already worn the senior executives of the detention centre out with my regular meetings with the members of the public monitoring commission and discussion of infringement on the detainees’ rights. I do not know how long they will remain interested in me, but four meetings in a week are definitely a lot. 

On the day I was brought to Lefortovo, I was visited by Ivan Melnikov, the most active member of the public monitoring commission. I was shocked by the change of the detention centre, and his visit could not have come at a better time. He also raised my spirits by telling my wife where I was.

On Saturday, Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Council for Human Rights, tried to see me together with the member of the public monitoring commission and reporter of The Moskovskii Komsomolets Eva Merkacheva in order to persuade the senior executives of the detention centre to grant me a power of attorney for the election, but he was not admitted as he was not a member of the public monitoring commission and had no unhindered access to the prison. 

On 23, 25 and 27 July, the senior executives of the second detention centre did not admit the notary brought by my attorneys at the checkpoint, so the interference by Ella Pamfilova had probably been of no use. My wife, Iuliia Shestun, will probably have to run for the election for the office of the district head on her own as the registration is over in a day. 

Iuliia is a good speaker, and she is shrewd and attentive. It is no coincidence that she was an editor-in-chief at OKA-FM radio station and then taught in one of Serpukhov institutions. I understand that she will be opposed by the administrative resources of the Governor and the “Podolsk brigade”, who have usurped the district administration.

Meanwhile, I have written an open letter to my former staff from the Serpukhov District administration where I have explained that I do not condemn any of them although I know that all of them turned their back on me the next day after the arrest. They have difficulty fighting back as each of them is a kneeling man with a gun pointed at the back of the neck. They saw how easily I was imprisoned for the resolution adopted in 2010, which had been double-checked by the courts and examined by the investigators of the Investigative Committee a dozen of times, and had been found legal and reasonable every time. Moreover, I did not even sign that resolution. These people can put easily anyone from the senior executives of the district administration behind bars, even where there is no guilt. Moreover, many people are afraid to lose a job in our hard times. Most officers are women, and it is only fair that they should think about their children and family.

Of course, my wife Iulia will find it difficult winning the election campaign since the key departments of education, culture and sports will support her main competitors, Igor Ermakov. Let alone the fact how hard it is to live with so many children and the stigma of the imprisoned husband. I am sure she will face lots of challenges, provocations and new surprises from the law enforcement authorities. The level at which I am being “destroyed” is incredible. The criminal proceedings were instituted by the Head of the Main Investigations Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Eduard Kaburneev, I was put behind the bars in Lefortovo, and the detention itself with 40 riflemen, with bringing me and my daughter Masha down to the floor, putting armlocks and pointing guns at temples was carried out with demonstrative violence.

When the statement of appeal was considered by the Moscow City Court, Cossack chieftain Sergei Odinokov and Leonid Nikitinskii, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights and a reporter of The Novaya Gazeta, and many others stood bail for me. I know how much pressure was exerted on Odinokov, and I am really grateful to him. A real man!

Lenia Nikitinskii wrote a bright article for The Novaya Gazeta, which ended with the following words, “We can hardly by mistaken by assuming that Shestun has composed himself and is considering his book. I am sure we are to read it.” It is my main hobby although I have never written texts for the book myself. I used to dictate and edit them. Lefortovo gives endless opportunities to describe your life story and draw up complaints and petitions regarding the criminal case and maintenance conditions in the detention centre. First of all, there are only two people in the cell, and you are often all alone there, with no distractions. Secondly, the TV shows two channels only, Russia 1 and NTV, with very low broadcasting quality, and the TV itself is tiny and very old, which is different from Vodnik with its Plasma TV of digital quality kept on by your cell mates from early morning till late evening. Thirdly, attorneys have difficulty getting into the second detention centre, and you do not waste time communicating with them. There is no electronic correspondence, so you get few letters, no gym... All the time is free.

In addition to the ample opportunities of development of your writing skills, Lefortovo offers some more advantages. There are lots of people with high-profile cases, and I manage to socialise with some of them. It improves my self-esteem and makes the public more interested in my story. It is also my chance of freedom. 

There are no criminal internal squabbles, let alone murders for hire, like in Vodnik where the top manager from Roscosmos was murdered half a year ago, with his body found with a fork at his back porch. First Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service Oleg Korshunov is now kept in Lefortovo, and Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service Aleksandr Reimer has already been transferred to prison from here. The irony of it is that those who had imprisoned Korshunov (Sergei Nikitiuk and Konstantin Strukov, two officers from M Directorate of the Federal Security Service) were put behind the bars in Lefortovo several days ago.

In the second detention centre, the prison food is of better quality than in Vodnik, bed linen is much cleaner, and security guards are more polite. 

After the second part of the building is redecorated, the detainees will be transferred to refurbished cells, and the premises where we are kept now will be brushed up. They promise complete renovation, plasma TVs and large fridges. I wish I would not have to witness this “house-warming” but in practice few people are leased from here in less than a year. In fact, one of my acquaintances managed to leave these walls by the decision of the Lefortovo Court in three months, but it was an exception to the rule. 

As I keep finding tiny advantages of my terrible tour around prisons at the age of 53, I would like to repeatedly emphasise the wonderful people I met here. I even discussed this phenomenon with Eva Merkacheva, a member of the public monitoring commission, who visited me a week after her daughter Alisa had been born. She quoted the fairy tale about Cipollino where Signor Tomato imprisoned his father: 

“My poor father! You have been put behind the bars like a criminal, together with thieves and gangsters!” 

“No, no, my son,” his father interrupted him tenderly. “There are lots of honest people in prison!”

“Why are they in prison then? What crime have they committed?”

“No crime, son. That is why they have been imprisoned. Prince Lemon hates honest people.”

“You mean getting into prison is a great honour?” he asked.

“It turns out it is.” 

***

When I arrived at Lefortovo, all my stuff was taken away, and I was placed into a quarantine cell in shorts and a T-shirt, with no warm clothes. The quarantine cell is located on the ground floor, which is very chilly, I felt called, but the corridor guards passed some remarks about me being wrapped in a blanket after the wake-up. It was driving me mad, and I started answering back until Aleksandr Khanov, the acting head of the second detention facility, came and promised that I would then be taken to the regular cell with a neighbour. They needed a quarantine cell urgently to keep General Aleksandr Drymanov, the Head of the Investigative Committee in Moscow, there. 

I was finally taken to the regular cell after that terrible first night. The cell on the first floor where Kubasai Kubasaev, the Head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service in the Republic of Dagestan, welcomed me. My stereotypes about prison seem incredible now: you are allegedly supposed to be humiliated and suppressed. I have not faced anything like that in seven cells I have been to. On the contrary, there is prison solidarity, a great desire to help, especially to the shocked newly arrived ones. Moreover, a newcomer has no food, a heater and other necessary staff. Still, the first thing a newcomer needs is kind words, so other detainees try to encourage and calm him down. Kurban Kubasaev (that was how the 62-year-old man from Dagestan asked me to call him) surrounded me with attention and wonderful Caucasian hospitality. Kurban was pulling round after the removal of the tumour, he had a catheter sticking out of his belly, with liquid pouring down into a bag attached to his body. 

“Bastards!” Kubasai resented. “They could have let me spent some more time in hospital after the surgery.”

According to Kurban, the criminal case based on Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Bribery” was ordered by the local law enforcement officers who wanted their man in his office. It is a common knowledge that, with account of the great shortage of jobs, one has long had to pay a lot in Dagestan to get any job, even of a nurse or a driver, so his version sounds quite true-to-life. It seems to me he just fell victim to the clearing campaign all over Dagestan. He was not caught red handed and simply accused of the bribe the way it is usually done now, based on the evidence only. I know it myself. In 2009, the proceedings based on Part 4 of Article 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Bribe on an Especially Large Scale” were instituted against me based on the statement by the mafia boss Graf (Sergei Romanov), and the investigation lasted three years. The proceedings were then terminated as there was no crime since Graf claimed that he had given me a bribe three years before, but furnished no confirmation. When I wrote a complaint to Bastrykin in connection with the illegal institution of the criminal proceedings, I noted that the Investigative Committee had already made a tragic mistake once, and I had not been imprisoned then miraculously. I described the medieval tradition as an example: if the person sentenced to execution fell of the gallows, the executor would not hang him anymore. 

Kurban settled down in his cell: he had had a small TV and his own kettle as well as a little fridge since September. Unlike the other prisons, Lefortovo does not allow buying large appliances and presenting them to the detention facilities, so few cells have such amenities. The second bed where I slept turned out to be short, and I asked to replace it, with account of the fact that it was not fixed to the floor. However, I heard in response, “Pack your staff and leave!” I was sorry to leave Kurban as we had already discussed half of our lives in 24 hours of our communication and found at least a dozen of common acquaintances.

Kurban has many children, and our wives are of the same age. His first family died tragically in full: they were poisoned by charcoal fumes at home. When Kurban said something about his children, tears starting running down his cheeks at once; I used to think that I was the only one to have such weakness. Kurban gave me a bag full of food, we hugged each other tightly, and I followed the security guards into the new world.

On my way, I met Kogershyn Sagieva, a member of the public monitoring commission and a report of Dozhd TV channel. She could hardly recognise me because of the bold head. Kogershyn told me that I had grown much older and thinner for a month since our first meeting in Vodnik. When I was brought to the cell, I asked my new neighbour Roma Manashirov whether it was true by showing him the newspaper photos from the Basmannyi Court at the arrest. He was horrified and said he saw two different people.

Of course, you health is severely undermined here. Many people are kept in the detention facility for two or three years; General of Main Directorate for Economic Security and Anti-Corruption Enforcement of MIA spent four years there. All this time, the detainees are kept in cells with dim light and never get to see sun light even when they are taken for a walk, which is very depressing. 

Lefortovo can be called the prison of Ivan Ivanovich Tkachev, the General of the Federal Security Service. Even when I walk along its long corridors, I can feel Tkachev’s spirit around. Many of the famous detainees have been brought here by this top-rank general of the Federal Security Service, including all the governors kept here. Their conduct differs. 

Viacheslav Gaizer, the Governor of Komi, exercises, is very neat, optimistic and unbreakable despite numerous episodes, 27 criminal cases and a great number of accomplices. 23 Gaizer’s friends have already turned into an aphorism. Moreover, his deputies ratted him out within the pre-trial investigation.

Leonid Markelov, the Governor of Mari El, is kept in the cell next to ours. He has a major disease and does not even go for a walk, he has been broken. Yet, he writes poems, and we call him Tsar Leonid.

Aleksandr Solovev, the Governor of Udmurtia, left this place half-dead. He could not even go to the toilet to this cone alone as he kept falling; his health had been totally undermined.

Nikita Belykh left for the prison camp unbroken by Tkachev.

Denis Sugrobov, the key enemy and competitor of the Head of K Directorate of the Economic Security Service of the Federal Security Service, stood his ground decently: he exercised, was always fit and never complained as he realised that the level of the order was so high that it would be of no use. He made no arrangements with them, and almost all of his team members behaved the same way.

The oligarchs including the Magomedov brothers, Roman Manashirov, Konstantin Ponomarev and Dmitrii Mikhalchenko are not giving in or making any arrangements, which demonstrates their inner strength. 

Here are not only Ivan Tkachev’s victims, but also his friends who have helped him imprison other people by request: Head of the Investigative Committee in Moscow Aleksandr Drymanov, General of the Investigative Committee Denis Nikandrov who has ratted everyone out: Maksimenko, Lamonov and Drymanov himself. 

Tkachev’s friends are much weaker than his victims. They rat each other out to be the firs and get a shorter sentence. They cry out at night. Nikandrov was especially loud demanding to be brought the Bible from the neighbouring cell. Then, in 2016, businessman Manashirov, as he has told, felt sorry about him and gave him the Torah as he was a Mountain Jew, despite the fact that it was Nikandrov who had imprisoned Manashirov and had not let him meet his 80-year-old mother. When Denis himself was put behind the bars, he begged the State Duma to revoke the law forbidding visitation for the people who had applied Article 51 of the Constitution (“no one can be obliged to bear testimony against themselves”).

A plea agreement is a common practice in Lefortovo. It is quite a long procedure that was equated to the law in 2009. Such people used to be called bitches in prisons, but now it is done even by members of the criminal underworld. In Lefortovo, almost 90 % of the high-profile political cases end in a plea agreement, with one of the accomplices ratting out or defaming the others and is given half a sentence and released for home confinement.

By the way, the one who has ratted the others out is often given a longer sentence, let alone the fact that neither prisoners nor law enforcement officers like those who enter into a plea agreement. During one of the interviews, the President of the Russian Federation was asked, “What do you hate most of all?” He replied, “Betrayal.” 

Here is an example. Grigorii Pirumov, the Deputy Minister of Culture, was sentenced to a year and a half of imprisonment for six episodes based on Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Fraud”. On top of that, the investigators of the Federal Security Service turned him into the mastermind behind the crime while his accomplice Dmitrii Sergeev, the founder of the construction company Balstroi, ratted Pirumov out by signing the plea agreement with the investigator, but got a longer sentence than Pirumov, four years and a half. Moreover, after he had been released in the court room, Sergeev was arrested by the Federal Security Service again and accused based on Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Criminal Gang”. Now he can be imprisoned for 12 to 20 years. 

***

So, when I was getting back from Kogershyn Sagieva, I took the bags in the quarantine cell where I had left them temporarily, and the security guards brought me to a new cell, to Roman Manashirov. 19 July 2018, 3 p.m. According to his identification documents, he was Gennadii Khiiavich, but he asked to call him Roman because he had been called Ramb since his childhood. This Jewish name comes from the name of the large hospital constructed in Haifa, which in its turn was named in the memory of the holy man described in the Torah. 

Roman Manashirov is a 49-year-old Mountain Hew from Quba District, Krasnaia Sloboda Village in Azerbaijan. This settlement with five thousand of residents is well known in Moscow, first of all, as a supplier of billionaires. God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev having four billion dollars each are neighbours and former friends of Roman Manashirov and his brother Solomon. 

It is great luck to live with a well-bred and well-educated person. Roman laid the table at once and calmed me down by saying that everything he had was common. His cell was cosier than Kurban’s. It was cooler because of the ground floor, but the fridge was bigger, there was a TV and even a fan left by his friend Grisha Pirumov. There were top-quality tomatoes from Baku, greens, cucumbers, roasted meat, turkey, chicken and nuts in the fridge. Roma had been here for almost three years, and it was obvious that the senior executives of legendary Lefortovo treated him with respect. He knew all the security guards, doctors and cooks by their name, and they returned his respect.

Manashirov also has five children of approximately the same age as mine, and our wives were born in the same year: 1979. His children’s photos are always on his bedside cabinet, and as soon as they are mentioned, Roman has tears well up the same way as Kurban. Such hardcore men with tears in their eyes look pretty strange, but nobody is ashamed of that.

It turned out that we had about 50 common acquaintances, at first sight only. The story of his arrest is even more disgusting and unreasonable. I should probably start with the fact that Manashirov constructed the largest mall in Russia and Eastern Europe called Columbus. He owns Armada, Prazhskii Passazh etc. Roman constructed Columbus with love: he hired the Dutch architects, the materials were brought from Europe, and the builders were from the largest Turkish company Renaissance. After it had been commissioned, there was a grand opening of the mall on 14 February 2015, on Saint Valentine’s Day. Six months later, in November 2015, the Second Service of the Federal Security Service detained Manashirov in Ukraina Hotel allegedly based on his intermediation in bribery during the events in 2013. The amount of the bribe looks ridiculous for the billionaire: two million roubles, let alone the fact that it happened two years ago, and Roman knows nothing about this event. But he has been imprisoned in Lefortovo.

In a year after the numerous searches, Manashirov’s debt to Gazprombank in the amount of 370 million dollars was purchased by Otkritie bank for the former perpetrators of illegal seizures, such as Sergei Gordeev. However, Mirs LLC (the company of Solomon Manashirov’s family and his partners) did not breach its lending obligations. Then they made Roman’s brother Solomon and his partner Ildar Samiev sell Columbus under the threat of bankruptcy by means of the purchased debt. This event has never been described by the print media. The mall had to be sold for 520 million dollars although its real price was 1,350 millions (that was the amount which Morgan Bank, an American company, was ready to pay for Columbus). On 24 April 2017, Columbus became a part of PIK, the construction company managed by Sergei Gordeev. 

Then Manashirov’s partner and former deputy of the State Duma Ildar Samiev was put behind the bars in Matrosskaia Tishina for an incomprehensible economic crime, which had obviously been framed up, and Manashirov’s brother, 47-year-old Solomon, was put on the international wanted list for tax evasion although all the taxes had been paid at the end of April 2018.

Roman has been in Lefortovo for three years, with no visitors or telephone calls. Still, he fell victim to the provocation by the cook called Petr, who had offered Manashirov a telephone for 300 thousand roubles in the second detention facility in February 2016, by the order of the Federal Security Service. Of course, the telephone was found during the search the next day, and Petr confessed at once. The cook came later to apologise and complained and the Federal Security Service had made him do it. At the court hearing, he told the truth, but this episode and institution of the criminal proceedings based on Article 291 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation is still mentioned in the materials. For three years, Manashirov has been accused of six episodes with more incredible circumstances. The litigation started in December 2017 and is going to last until the middle of September 2018.

 

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