Brighton Anarchist Black Cross has joined the international campaign to free anarchist prisoner Alexander ‘Tundra’ Kolchenko. Below is a text explaining the background to the case, as well as ways in which you can express your solidarity and help in getting him set free.
Alexander Kolchenko is a Crimean anarchist, social activist and antifascist who is held in captivity by the Russian authorities. Along with other Crimean activists, he has been kidnapped by the Russian FSB (ex-KGB) and is now detained as a political hostage in Lefortovo jail in Moscow. He is charged with committing “acts of terrorism” and “belonging to a terrorist community”.
Why Alexander Kolchenko is in the jail?
Alexander, who has undeniably proved his antifascist stance over many years, is facing preposterous accusations of belonging to ‘Right Sector’, a radical Ukrainian right-wing organisation, whose real role in Ukrainian events has been blown out of all proportion by Russian official propaganda.
In modern Russia any activist — left-wing, anarchist or liberal — can be slandered as being a member or sympathiser of ‘Right Sector’. This situation is comparable to the hunt for non-existent ‘Trotskyists’ under Stalin, or the McCarthy witch-hunt for communists. Putin’s authoritarian and nationalist regime, whose propaganda utilises everything from religious prejudice and conspiracy theories to outright racism, shamelessly steals ‘antifascist’ rhetoric to divert attention from its true aims. And yet anyone who is considered bothersome is called a ‘fascist’, even if s/he stands on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
The case against antifascist Alexander Kolchenko and the civil activist and film director Oleg Sentsov (investigators enrolled them into the same “terrorist” group) is patently political. It is meant to intimidate the inhabitants of Crimea and prevent any resistance on the peninsula. The most authoritarian of methods are now used in an annexed Crimea to repress all discontent. Many people were obliged to flee the peninsula because their lives and freedom were threatened: lawyers, left-wing activists, students and trade union activists, anarchists, antifascists and Crimean Tatar activists, the latter having fallen victim to ethnic discrimination.
What threats does Alexander Kolchenko face?
A terrible prison sentence of up to 20 years hangs over Alexander Kolchenko for a non-existent “terrorist attack” in which he could obviously not have been involved. Kolchenko and other Ukrainian political prisoners are detained only in order to demoralise the opposition via the tried and tested tactic of show trials. Their freedom is directly linked to the stability of the Putin regime: if we can shake the confidence of Putin despite his apparent impunity, the prisoners will be set free. There is no hope that Kolchenko, Sentsov and others could be judged according to the letter of the law: their arrests were unlawful and the charges against them are far-fetched. It is not a mistake, the regime knows exactly what it is doing.
How can you help Alexander Kolchenko?
We are asking international left-wing and libertarian forces for assistance. You can organise and lead actions of protest and solidarity, write letters to Kolchenko, send donations for lawyers and food parcels, and help his family. It is also important to spread information about his case. Most of all, we need to dissociate ourselves from any forces that support aggressive expansion of Russian nationalism, even if they cover it up with “leftist” and “anti-imperialist” rhetoric. Putin’s regime is doing just fine without your sympathy; better save it for those who have become its victims.
When to start?
You can start right now by helping to spread this text, translating it into other languages and forwarding it on to your contacts. We also strongly encourage you to organise demonstrations in support of Alexander Kolchenko and the other political prisoners jailed in Russia between April 1st and 7th, 2015. On April 11 and 16 respectively the initial custody periods for Sentsov and Kolchenko come to their end. In the first half of April Lefortovo District Court of Moscow will again decide whether they should be remanded in jail pending trial or placed under house arrest. Only strong and massive pressure on the Putin regime, protests around the world, will give us the opportunity to set our comrades free. We demand their immediate release and an end to their prosecution.
For those in UK, one of the easiest and most basic things that everybody can do is to send a protest letter, email or fax to the Russian embassy, but obviously we urge everybody to participate in solidarity actions in any way possible.
Below is a sample message you can send:
I demand the release of Alexander Kolchenko and other Crimean activists held in Russian prisons on ridiculous and patently trumped up charges of “acts of terrorism” and “belonging to a terrorist association”. I see those arrests as a clear act of political persecution and an attempt to intimidate any opposition of Russian government and its policies. I urge you to stop this repression and release those imprisoned immediately. Actions of your government are causing more and more opposition to the Russian regime, both inside and outside of your country, and this will continue to grow if you insist on keeping your opponents in jail.
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP
Residence of the Ambassador:
13 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QX
5 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QS
Telephone Embassy: +44 (0) 20 7229 6412
Fax Embassy: +44 (0) 20 7727 8625
Telephone Consular Section (PASSPORT, VISA, etc): +44 (0) 203 668 7474
Fax Consular Section: +44 (0) 20 7229 3215
email@example.com – Consular queries
firstname.lastname@example.org – Press and culture queries
email@example.com – Russia-UK relations queries
firstname.lastname@example.org – Foreign policy queries
More information below:
Interview with Alexander Kolchenko
Repressions against Crimean activists: political context
Multilingual Facebook group
Contact Free Kolchenko group at: freekolchenko[at]gmail.com