Open letter: Putin vs kids.
Anya Pavlikova, who's just turned 18 years-old in prison, a girl with two braids, is standing behind the bars, crying, begging the judge to let her free:
"I'm not going to run anywhere. I don't want and I can't intimidate anybody. I got headaches all night long, I can not sleep. It's impossible here. I want to go back home. I can't bear it anymore. I want to hug my mom. I ask you to give me any other pre-trial constraint. But not prison. That's all".
Anya's mama, sitting with a crunch in the courtroom, sobs. She says to Anya: "Don't cry, my sweet. Everything will be ok".
Anya's papa tells the judge: "Anya was a really kind girl. She was singing in a church choir. After the hurricane in Moscow, when she was 15-years-old, she went to a park and rescued little chicks who lost their parents. She helped them to grow up, feed them, and then let them go back to nature. The last year she worked as a vet and helped her sick mom with money. She was a really kind girl"
The judge interferes mentorily: "Why was? She still is".
"We may lose our kid", - says Anya's papa.
The judge's replica feels like a cruel stupid joke from someone who's in charge of putting Anya in jail and literally killing her by it. Anya's in jail since March, she's losing her health. Anya is in prison hospital now. After staying for a couple of hours in a cold prison van she got inflammation of appendages, she peed with blood, and she does not get any proper treatment. "Prison sterilizes", - said to Anya a prison doctor (a woman!).
"I'm so glad that I have a sister. She still can have kids who will continue our family line. I'm not able to do it anymore", - Anya writes to her mom from jail.
The few hundred people who came to support Anya, can not fit in the courtroom, they're spread all around, it feels like a rally inside the court.
But what did Anya do? She and her 19-years-old friend Maria Dubovik, joined a Telegram chat that's been critical of Vladimir Putin. Participants of the chat would meet at McDonalds and talk about boys, exams and politics.
Then the chat was joined by the FSB agent, who later provided all info about its participants to the FSB and police, which caused a brutal arrest of 9 people. Police says that the activists created an "extremist community" with a goal "to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin". Anya Pavlikova is the youngest of them, she was 17-years-old when police came to her room covered with unicorn pictures. "Are you a junkie? We gonna put you in jail for 20 years, you'll get out of there as ugly, 40-years-old granny. Your parents will forget you in 2 days", - policemen said to Anya while arresting her. One activist, Ruslan Kostylenkov, reportedly was tortured after his arrest.
Anya and others did not commit any crimes, just chatted. 18-years-old is facing 10 years in jail for talking.
“Our country doesn’t need clever active young people ... who are worried about the country and want to change it for the better,” says Anya's papa. “The Special Services are especially for active children ... children learning to share their point of view, about elections, Russia. What happens? They are being imprisoned.”
This criminal case is a part of a bigger strategy of Putin's government aimed to intimidate young people, who in the last couple of years became seriously involved in politics. People of school age started showing up in the streets saying that they’ve had enough of Putin. Big anti-corruption protests happened on 26th of March 2017, on 12th of June 2018, a series of rallies all around Russia on 5th of May 2018, a few days before Putin's inauguration (over 1600 people were arrested on the 5th of May).
"I lived all my life under Putin and I'm fed up. We want justice," young people say. Educational institutions, governed by the Kremlin, have turned against them and both the kids and their parents are being terrorized. 13-14-years-old kids are being arrested during rallies, in some cases violently.
Government's ban of messenger "Telegram" has already been for four months. It's a place where all of us, including young activists, share and get info. It's encrypted, therefore it makes the government angry. We all use Telegram anyway, cause we got VPN. But Anya Pavlikova's criminal case is here to serve as a threat to anybody who believes that they may stay safe discussing politics.
Putin's hostages are not just kids though. There’s also the case of a Urkanian film director Oleg Senstov, who is on his 75th day of hunger strike in a Russian prison, put there unlawfully for 20 years. Sentsov is a vocal advocate against Russian annexation of Crimea. Also, four Pussy Riot members are still serving 2 weeks of arrest after the World Cup action. Marina Abramovic showed her solidarity yesterday, recording "Free Pussy Riot" video.
We're in Pussy Riot are in shock of what Putin's gang is doing with people who raise their voice against him, and we're releasing this track "Unicorn Freedom" to support Anya Pavlikova.