Monday, June 08, 2009

Free Artem Loskutov

The invaluable Petrograd-based leftist collective Chto Delat have put out the following appeal - contemporary with a rise in protest across Russia, artists, particularly those who venture into politics, continue to be persecuted. The appeal is as follows:

Free Artem Loskutov! An Appeal from Chto Delat Platform

On May 15, 2009, the contemporary artist and university student Artem Loskutov (pronounced ahr-TYOHM LOHS-koo-tuhf) was arrested in Novisibirsk and charged with possession of a narcotic substance (marijuana) by the local branch of the Interior Ministry’s notorious Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”). Loskutov and his supporters claim that the police planted the marijuana in his bag in order to incriminate him. As one of the inspirations behind the annual “Monstration”—a flash-mob street party in which young people march with absurdist, Situationist slogans—Loskutov had long been an object of the Center’s attentions. At a pre-trial custody hearing on May 20, it was revealed that the Center had been tapping the phones of Loskutov and his friends for the past six months. In the weeks before this year’s Monstration and on May Day itself, Loskutov was summoned to the Center for “discussions”; his parents were also called and told that their son was a member of a dangerous sect. The circumstances of the case and the manner in which he was arrested thus point to a campaign of intimidation directed both at Loskutov and his fellow free-thinking “monstrators” in Novosibirsk.

The Loskutov case has sparked a massive outcry in Russia’s activist and art communities. In the past three weeks, artists, activists, and ordinary concerned citizens all over Russia have carried out a series of pickets, protests, and art actions in Loskutov’s defense. The most inspiring of these actions is a “plein air” hunger strike organized by several young artists in Petersburg, now in its second week. The artists have encamped themselves in a park next to city hall, where they are producing paintings and drawings whose central motif is the increasingly brutal police repression of social activists and dissenting artists in Russia. The hunger strikers have issued three demands. First, they want a criminal investigation of the mass arrests by riot police of marchers in a “Pirate Street Party” on May Day in Petersburg; these arrests took place despite the fact that the action’s organizers had obtained official written permission to march with the other columns of demonstrators. Second, they call for the convening of a public commission to monitor the work of Center “E.” Finally, they demand that the charges against Artem Loskutov be dropped and that he be released from police custody.

Although the Loskutov case and the Petersburg hunger strike have become two of the hottest topics in the Russian blogosphere, there has been a near-total blackout in the mainstream Russian press, especially television. That is why we ask you to join our campaign of solidarity with Artem and his hunger-striking artist comrades in Petersburg. We have called an international day of actions for June 9, a day before Artem’s appeal to be released on recognizance will be heard in the Novosibirsk Regional Court. If we put enough pressure on local and federal authorities now and make enough noise outside of Russia, it is possible that Center “E” will even drop their case altogether.

More information on Artem Loskutov, his arrest and the Monstrations here.

UPDATE from Chto Delat: We just got word from Novosibirsk that the Novosibirsk Regional Court ordered that Artem Loskutov be released on recognizance this morning. Since the court was only examining the defense's appeal of a lower court's earlier decision to remand Artem to police custody pending trial, this doesn't mean the charges have been dropped or that our campaign is over. But it is an important first victory and I believe that the unprecedented solidarity campaign on Artem's behalf made a difference.


Blogger avvakum said...

Thanks a billion, Owen. If you ever come to Petrograd (and, given your architectural interests, you should) we'll show you the sights.

-Chto Delat Platform

2:42 pm  
Anonymous said...

To my fellow Americans: would you act up in Putin's Russia?

Solidarity with Artem Loskutov.

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I like the Russian drug police dubbing themselves 'Centre E'. Cool.

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