‘They will kill me’ – the death of a war opponent tortured by security forces in Russia

Last Updated: June 19, 2023By Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Vladimir Putin: has he given orders for anti-Ukraine-war protesters to be silenced, no matter what it takes?

This Site was contacted with an unusual request: would I agree to publish articles from anti-war Russian websites?

Apparently, most people think everybody in Russia supports the war in Ukraine. In fact, it seems there are protests against Vladimir Putin and his aggression, but there is no information in the media outside Russia.

Russian anti-war activists are tortured and die in Russia as a result, but we don’t know about them.

Would This Site help to change that?

The answer is below – the first of what I hope will be a series.

This one is by Nikita Sologub, written on June 15 and  translated by Viana Tina.

It is a translation of the article ««Они меня убьют». Что известно о гибели противника войны, которого силовики пытали в Ростове‑на‑Дону» Никита Сологуб, 15 июня 2023, 22:50, Editor: Yegor Skovoroda

You can find the original here.

Anatoliy Berezikov, 40, was into noise music, liked cycling around Rostov-on-Don and spoke out against the war. In mid-May, Berezikov was detained by the security forces, and since then he has not been released from administrative detention – time after time new reports have been drawn up on him under invented pretexts. He told his lawyer that the operation officers tortured him and beat him with electric shocks, while the FSB investigator came to the detention center and threatened with treason charges. Berezikov never got out of detention and died on 14 June in the detention center. Police officers were quick to call his death a suicide, but his defenders believe that he could not withstand the new torture. “Mediazone” tells what is known about Anatoliy Berezikov and the circumstances of his death.

He came out of the detention centre and immediately started swearing (police version)

If the police records are to be believed, in the early hours of 11 May officers accidentally encountered a long-haired, bearded man with tattoos on his arms on the outskirts of Rostov-on-Don. They asked to see his documents, but the man refused, shoved one of the police officers and tried to escape. The fugitive, 40-year-old Anatoliy Berezikov, was caught, taken to Police Department No. 6 and a report drawn up for disobeying a police officer. Maria Kornienko, judge of the Pervomaisky district court in Rostov-on-Don, sent Berezikov to 10 days’ detention.

The arrest was due to expire on 21 May at 2.05 pm. At 2.20pm, barely out of the detention centre on Semashko Street in the city centre, Berezikov started swearing and harassing passers-by. Police officers asked him to stop, but the man did not respond and refused to get into the patrol car, pushing the officers and grabbing their uniforms. Rostov police officers, this time from Unit 4, had to detain him again and take him to court, now in the city’s Leninsky district. There, Judge Sergei Bychenko found Berezikov guilty of disorderly conduct and sent him back to a special detention centre, again for 10 days.

This time, however, Berezikov was able to send a message that he needed help. When lawyer Irina Gak came to see him, Anatoliy told her that what was described in the reports was a plain police lie.

Detention. “Beaten and threatened with rape, further torture, possible murder”

In fact, Berezikov wrote, on 11 May he was in a rented flat he had rented after moving to Rostov-on-Don from Shatura near Moscow several years ago. Around eight in the morning there was a loud knock on the door, someone shouting that it was the neighbours. While a sleepy Berezikov was figuring out how to react, the door had already been broken into. About six people in black balaclavas burst into the flat, ran into the room without any explanation, threw him on the floor and started kicking him, then dragged him into the kitchen. While some in the kitchen were beating the man, threatening him and asking questions, others were turning things upside down in the room.

It was only after this that he was brought to the sixth police department, and after drawing up a report, to the judge, which started the series of administrative arrests.

To inform him that the arrest would not be the last, an FSS (Federal Security Service) investigator came to the special detention centre in person, and no criminal case was opened against Berezikov. He not only told his lawyer about this visit, but he also repeated it in the notes he handed in during the meeting.

“I was told (in general terms) about the basement, torture and being sent to war”, he described his conversation with the investigator. Speaking about the end of his arrest, Berezikov feared: “I might be met with, like the last time, beatings and threats of rape, further torture, probable murder.”

New torture and a third arrest. “The man who experienced a stun gun”

On 31 May Anatol Berezikov was to be released from custody. By that time lawyer Irina Gak, activist Tatiana Sporysheva and two other women arrived at the detention centre on Semashko Street. In order not to miss the moment of exit, they took positions at both exits of the detention centre. There was already a police UAZ at one of them, Sporysheva recalls, and a man without a uniform was walking nearby – she thought it was an FSS officer. When he saw the women, he called someone and another car arrived at the second exit. When it was time to be released, the officer on duty told the women that Berezikov had already been released. Believing this, the lawyer and activists packed up, leaving one of the exits unsupervised.

“Then we realised that we had been cheated, that is, while we were discussing, he was taken out through another entrance and immediately taken away. We realised this from the behaviour of the police officers, but we didn’t even know where they had taken him, whether he was being charged again with administrative or criminal offences. So we decided to follow the second police car and when it moved, we followed it,” Sporysheva said.

Following the car led them to Police Station 4, where Berezikov had had a report drawn up before his previous arrest. There, Sporysheva and Gak noticed the same man without a uniform. At the police station, the lawyer was told that Berezikov was not there. A few hours later Irina Gak thought that her client could have been secretly taken to the Leninski District Court – and then she actually met Berezikov in the corridor.

He was pale, the lawyer recalled, “extremely frightened” and generally looked like “a man who had experienced a stun gun at least”. Sporysheva says that when the lawyer asked Anatoliy to write an application to get acquainted with the case file, he was unable to do so himself.

“He was just like a cotton doll who didn’t react at all. He had absolutely cotton hands, his fingers hardly moved, he could not write this statement at all,” she claims. The guards at the time suggested that Berezikov should give up his lawyer. In the minute-long recording from the court corridor he is sitting unresponsive, with his hands folded and staring at the floor.

He was pale, the lawyer recalled, “extremely frightened” and generally looked like “a man who had experienced a stun gun at least”. Sporysheva says that when the lawyer asked Anatoliy to write an application to get acquainted with the case file, he was unable to do so himself.

“He was just like a cotton doll who didn’t react at all. He had absolutely cotton hands, his fingers hardly moved, he could not write this statement at all,” she claims. The guards at the time suggested that Berezikov should refuse his lawyer. In the minute-long recording from the court corridor he is sitting unresponsive, with his hands folded and staring at the floor.

When the guards were distracted and withdrawn, the women managed to talk to Berezikov. He managed to tell them that while they were looking for him in Department 4, the operatives had taken him out of town and tortured him there with a stun gun. The lawyer took a picture – on his back one could really see multiple red dots, characteristic of stun gun blows.

Because this time the hearing of the administrative report – again drawn up by police officers from the Fourth Department under the pretext of foul language – was attended by lawyer Irina Gak and Tatiana Sporysheva (as public defender), it lasted several hours. The defence demanded that an ambulance be called to the court; when they arrived, the medics gave Berezikov an injection of anaesthetic, but refused to assess his injuries and did not leave any documents.

Despite the defence’s accounts of a visit from an FSS investigator, threats to life, torture and illegal detention in a special detention centre, Judge Lada Evangelovskaya did not accede to requests. Instead, she sent Berezikov under arrest for another 15 days.

According to Sporysheva, after the hearing he managed to say: “I am afraid that I will disappear. I’m afraid that they will kill me and I won’t live till I get out of the special detention centre, that is, I won’t live till 15 June”.

After the trial, the police guards took Berezikov to the car to take him to the police station to fill out the paperwork for his transfer to a special detention centre. On the way to the car, the man managed to tell his defenders that all the things he had with him when he was arrested were missing: his flat keys, a wallet with 15,000 roubles and a bank card with money on it.

The video shows him finishing his cigarette and getting into his car, but he does not have time to throw away the cigarette butt.

– Don’t you have an ashtray here? Aren’t there any rubbish bins nearby? – The detainee asks with bewilderment.

– Just throw it under the car! – The policeman answers.

Berezikov doesn’t want to litter, so the lawyer has to throw the cigarette butt away.

Death in a detention centre

On 10 June, Sporysheva took a parcel to Berezikov. On 13 June the lawyer Irina Gak met him in the detention centre – he was active and, expecting that a criminal case would be brought against him, promised not to admit guilt despite torture.

The day before the end of the arrest, on 14 June, the lawyer, expecting that this arrest might not be the last one, came again to the detention centre. But there she was told that Anatoliy Berezikov was dead.

“At the same time, the cause was not given exactly, they said: either he had a heart attack or committed suicide,” recalls Tatiana Sporysheva, who was next to her. – That is, it was unclear. We called an ambulance, phoned and told the police. We couldn’t believe it, we thought that maybe he was ill, maybe he was still alive, maybe he could still be helped, but they were lying to us.

But soon an ambulance arrived at the detention centre and took away the corpse. The next day Berezikov was identified by his close friend.

The staff at the detention centre claim that Anatoliy Berezikov committed suicide. His defenders are certain that he died after being tortured.

High treason for the enemy of the war. “They torture brutally.”

While he was alive, Anatoliy Berezikov was never charged with any criminal offence. Even the visit to his flat was not formalised as a search within the framework of the investigation, but as an operative investigative measure “inspection of the premises”.

Lawyer Yevgeniy Smirnov from the human rights project “First Department”, who was aware of Berezikov’s misadventures, is convinced that the Rostov FSS Department needed a series of arrests in order to coordinate the criminal case of treason with the Moscow one.

“The decision to launch treason proceedings is agreed in Moscow. They cannot initiate it on their own initiative,” Smirnov explains. – The bureaucratic machine works and it takes time. Some take 15 days, some take two or three months. All this time they tried to prepare him for the case, to make him confess when it happens and not try to defend himself, being without a lawyer under the agreement. So that he would behave obediently and not interfere with the quiet investigation of the case”.

However, Berezikov did not yield to the threats and did not refuse a lawyer, which probably led to the situation in which the detainee died – most likely after more torture.

“There is no forensic report at the moment. There may even be a case, in which a lawyer will be involved as a representative of the victim’s family. Then we will know what he died of. It could be in a month or two,” says Smirnov. – They torture brutally. The lawyer had seen him just shortly before his death and of course he was not going to commit suicide, on the contrary he said that he was going to defend himself, saying that he feared for his life and health. Electricity is such a thing. A little too much, and even the healthiest person’s heart can stop.

The reason why the FSS was interested in Berezikov is unknown to Smirnov, but he knows that from the beginning of the war he “took an anti-war stance, non-violent, he did not hide his views in personal conversations”.

In public social networks Berezikov did not talk about the war. He worked as a repair mechanic. According to his VKontakte (Russian Facebook equivalent) page, his only sphere of interest, far from political, was noise music. He made noise synths together with the legend of the Rostov experimental scene Papa Srapa (Eduard Srapionov) and gave concerts under the pseudonym Anatoliy Ryk.

On 14 June, Anatoliy Ryk was supposed to perform at the festival Noise and Fury in Moscow. But on that day he died in a special detention centre in Rostov-on-Don.

Berezikov’s hobby associates interviewed by Mediazona said that he was not sociable, “kept away from the party”, “was a loner”, and “gave the impression of a person excessively eager to draw attention to his person”.

Berezikov himself was repeatedly in the Rostov news because of his habit of riding his bicycle in only shorts even in the harshest of winters. He has observed elections, helped Navalny’s headquarters, and participated in protests, including in support of Alexei Navalny, who was arrested in January 2021 – and was fined for doing so.

Translation of tweet of Vadim Kobzev:

It turned out that I knew Anatoliy personally. He was an activist in our Navalny office in Rostov, participated in rallies and was an election observer. Many people in Rostov had seen him on a bicycle without a T-shirt with a sign saying “Putin is a thief”.

The scum who tortured and murdered him will pay the price

Translation of OVD Info (Transl.- Account in English: @ovdinfo_en Advocacy & monitoring for human rights in Russia. Track repressions & provide legal aid to unjustly persecuted)

Anatoliy Berezikov, a 40-year-old activist, died in a detention centre in Rostov-on-Don. His lawyer, Irina Gak, suspects the man may have been killed in the process of torture

“I cannot name specific names of the people he spoke to, but I know of cases where he vividly expressed his anti-war stance in conversations in public space.

He always took part in actions, and not just came, but showed some kind of activity, handed out materials. That is, he is a long-time activist,” said Tatiana Sporysheva.

According to her, after her arrest Berezikov said that “for months he had been putting up anti-war leaflets, actively doing that while riding his bicycle. Evgeny Smirnov of the First Department does not confirm this, but does not deny it either; lawyer Irina Gak refused to comment.

It was difficult for Sporysheva to say which leaflets had attracted the attention of the FSS. The OVD-Info project mentioned that it could presumably have been leaflets with instructions on how to use the Ukrainian project “I Want to Live” (which accepts requests from Russian servicemen to surrender).

Ukrainian telegraph channels and bloggers have regularly posted calls for Russians to participate in a “flash mob” to post these leaflets on the streets of their cities since at least last autumn, posting layouts for printing them out. On May 10, on the eve of the law enforcers’ visit to Berezikov’s flat, Ukrainian telegraph channel «Оперативний ЗСУ» (Operative ZSU) wrote that “in the flash mob for distributing leaflets over the past few days, Rostov-on-Don, the unchallenged champion St. Petersburg and the unexpectedly small town of Novotroitsk stood out.” “But a separate place in this company is held by Rostov, where flyers of the ‘I Want to Live’ project were posted directly on victory posters,” the channel noted.

Whatever really drew the FSS’s attention, after the search the law enforcers found confirmation of their suspicions in Berezikov’s seized gadgets, lawyer Smirnov believes. “Naturally, he was subscribed to various telegrams to receive information from both sides. Next, they began to get him to admit that he was helping Ukraine, that’s one, and two – why they tortured him was to take out some of their anger. “Traitor to the motherland. You are our enemy, we will do with you what we want.” Some kind of animal feelings,” Yevgeny Smirnov is sure.

There is no record of the “inspection of the premises”, but Tatyana Sporysheva says that in addition to electronic devices, one of the two bicycles was also taken from the flat.

She believes that initially the FSS officers wanted to make Berezikov one of those defendants under the article on state treason, whose detention becomes known only after the court decision is made – without any details of the case. But Berezikov found the strength to resist, sought help from the people outside and thus ruined the law enforcers’ plan.

“This is a very convenient target: Anatoliy has no wife, no children, he has no Rostov registration, and he only has an elderly mother in the Moscow suburbs. He came to Rostov and he has no one here, no one will worry about him, no one will look for him, hence the treason,” she reasoned.

Yevgeniy Smirnov from the First Department agrees with her: “From his words – he was talking about threats under the article, for which life imprisonment is envisaged. Knowing the practice that we have all over the country now – and I know many such cases already – it was, of course, treason.

That’s the end of the article: an anti-war activist was arrested multiple times and did not survive the experience. Make of it what you will – but please let me know what you think of the article and if you’ll read more.

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  1. Elijah Traven June 19, 2023 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    In war as we saw with the British Army in Northern Ireland. When a State feels threatened it can and will engage in extraordinary violence inside and outside its borders as we see with Turkey and dozens of other countries. You must keep things in perspective and not take anything for everything if you see what I mean. Every war has its own uniqueness. The Russian population overwhelmingly support the war against NATO US EU who are the entirely responsible parties for this wild fire war in Ukraine. You can imagine what people would think in UK if a foreign enemy was attempting to strangle our economy and was killing our soldiers and aiming relentlessly at our civilians what they would be prepared to do against their own kind if they were showing support for the enemy and engaging in activities whatever those activities there were or even suspected. There is little to non mercy in war. You will find dissidents in every country, at peace or at war. The entire lot of them will face hostile media attention, disruption to their activities, calls by politicians to repress and use the entire range of judicial, custodial, policing, legislative powers at their disposal. Whenever the British State feels threatened by internal forces there is no limit to what it can and will do. Most of the so called ‘left’ in Britain is in a laughable state and as we see in this war against Russia shown their true bloody colours. You say that whatever activity you’re referring to hasn’t been broadcast in Western or British media. Ask yourself why this might be. There is a full scale anti Russian full scale propaganda assault going on in Britain in line with large military support for Ukraine. As Xi Jinping said when asked whether China would support Russia militarily he answered ‘Stop blaming China. China does not help the Russian Federation, but if it decides to help, God will not help you. Almost the whole world helps Ukraine (an exaggeration but you see his point). If we see the threat of World War 111, we will help the Russian Federation.’ Well the way this insane war is going this may be sooner rather than later. Those who in anyway help a foreign enemy when their own country is at war deserve worse than torture. They deserve torture to get information out of them about their associates and then should be rightfully and fairly executed unless there is a use to be made of them. War is terrible. The whole infrastructure media and central and local state authorities in Britain support this despicable war against Russia. Not one dissenting voice in the so called Mother of All Parliaments. Why do you care that they are not interested in torture stories inside Russia. I’m sure if you look a little harder you’ll find whatever you want. I say why care or consider it to be of least importance against what these regimes are doing in prosecuting a war against Russia that is such slaughter to the Russian lands, a fratricidal war, a war threatening to incinerate the world. Let’s have a series by you on Ukrainian torture used against their own citizens as a means of suppressing protest. And who just torture them unbearably without any reason and for purely perverted reasons. Anyone found smuggling out newsletters or articles I leave to your imagination what they would do to them. Ukraine has become a psychopathic state under the tutelage of US and US. In fact it is not a functioning state anymore. Millions have fled the madhouse. In my opinion Ukraine should be mainly be taken over by Russia, it’s a Russian land anyway. Western provinces left for Poland and other scavengers who are showing much interest in adding booty to their territories. Poland is ruled by maniacs but they are a minor in that department when it comes to comparison with the US UK, the most vile, terrorist states that have ever existed in human history. I’m giving you my name but I would sooner you didn’t publish it. Say I’m from Hull and have asked to remain anonymous. I take a keen interest in Russia and would much sooner live there than in the insane asylum which is the UK.

  2. Stewart Hendry June 20, 2023 at 5:49 am - Reply

    I found the Russian war article informative and moving. Certainly publish more.

  3. marijo1951 June 20, 2023 at 8:18 am - Reply

    Thanks Mike. What a terrible story. It shows that Russia is rapidly reverting to full-blown Stalinism and, in the process, destroying some of its most worthwhile citizens. I for one will be grateful for any information that you can pass on about resistance in Russia. Opponents to the war and to Putin take risks that we can only imagine, and it’s important that we remember that the régime does not represent the whole population.

  4. El Dee June 22, 2023 at 2:23 am - Reply

    I have absolutely no doubt that this happens. But this seems ‘off’ somehow. Can’t put my finger on it..

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