Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Latest update on Leonid Mikhailov

I just received the following information (in Russian) from a source close to the family of Leonid Mikhailov:

"In recent days the case of Leonid Mikhailov has taken an unexpected and incomprehensible turn.

On August 11 the Russian consul in Kharkov informed Leonid's mother that the case against her son had been closed and that he should be released. He did not explain why the case had been closed. The investigator Babenko confirmed that the case had been closed on August 8 and stated that Mikhailov had been released from the investigative isolation facility (IIF) on August 9 after being handed his passport as a citizen of the Russian Federation and a document registering his release. The same information was confirmed by the IIF. According to these statements, Mikhailov had already been free for over 48 hours. However, he had not called home and this worried his relatives.

On August 12 Mikhailov's mother visited the Special Department of the IIF in the town of Volnyansk. [Volnyansk is situated in Zaporozhye Province in Eastern Ukraine; evidently Mikhailov's mother is in Ukraine looking for her son -- Stephen Shenfield]. There she was told that 'as she had not come to pick up her son' (she could not have done this because she learned of his 'release' only two days later) 'he has been taken away by people from the Security Service of Ukraine' (SSU). Then she went to the directorate of the SSU for Zaporozhye Province, where she was assured that since leaving the IIF Leonid had not been detained again by them. At the end of the working day she was informed at the Special Department of the IIF that her son had been taken by the SSU for interrogation. It turns out that the case has not been closed and Leonid has not been released. The administration of the IIF has refused to say who exactly took Leonid 'for interrogation,' for how long, or where he is.

Leonid's mother is now going to Kiev to inquire at the main reception office of the SSU. If they do not tell her where her son is, it will be necessary to initiate a nationwide search (through the Russian consul, for example).

If you have any ideas about how to find our comrade, please share them with us! Thank you for your involvement, support, and any advice!"

In another development, a colleague has located on the internet a denunciation of Leonid Mikhailov as a "terrorist" (a term used to refer to anyone fighting on the anti-government side) together with a reproduction of a document apparently found on him at the time of his arrest -- an identity card issued by the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR). This document does not of course prove the charge that he participated in the militia of the DPR. Presumably he needed it in order to carry out his humanitarian work in relative safety in territory controlled by the DPR, but when he encountered Ukrainian government forces the same document immediately became "incriminating."    

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Please release Leonid Mikhailov!

Leonid Mikhailov is a Russian activist in the anti-Putin opposition, a social democrat, and a member of the organization Left Socialist Action. On a recent visit to Eastern Ukraine undertaken to bring humanitarian aid to the suffering inhabitants of the war zone he was arrested by representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. He is accused of participating in a separatist militia and is now languishing in a Ukrainian prison.

In order to demonstrate the implausibility of the charges leveled against Leonid Mikhailov, it suffices to glance through the home page of his organization’s website (http://levsd.ru/). One of the items that we find there is a joint statement by Left Socialist Action and two other Russian social democratic organizations about the situation in Eastern Ukraine. This statement forcefully expresses their opposition to the separatist regimes in the Donbas – the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). They regard these regimes as much worse than the government in Kiev, under which citizens at least enjoy basic civil rights.

Here are the first few lines of this statement, translated from the Russian:

“The position of the social democrats of Russia is based on our view that the moderately conservative government of Ukraine is a more progressive institution of state power than the majority of the leaders of so-called ‘New Russia,’ who are radical conservatives. The DPR and the LPR are mostly a collection of warring right-wing military juntas. The residents of the areas under their control have none of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the rest of bourgeois-democratic Ukraine. This applies especially to the clerical-nationalist regime of the DPR, under which use of the Ukrainian language is forcibly suppressed even in daily life and Orthodox Christianity has been declared the state religion. Political self-expression is impossible in this area: worker activists have been kidnapped and tortured for criticizing the DPR...” 

It is extremely difficult to believe that an activist of an organization that has adopted this position would offer political or military support to any of the “right-wing military juntas” in Eastern Ukraine. Several prominent figures of the Russian democratic left have conveyed their firm conviction that Leonid Mikhailov went to Eastern Ukraine out of purely humanitarian motives. His arrest was presumably one of the mistakes or misunderstandings that are so hard to avoid under confused wartime conditions. We respectfully request the Ukrainian authorities to release him without delay and allow him to return home.

Vladislav E. Bugera
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Ufa State Petroleum Technological University, Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russian Federation

Stephen D. Shenfield
Independent researcher and translator, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

New signatories invited.