Russia Update: Director of Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow Arrested on ‘Extremism’ Charges

October 29, 2015
Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow

Natalya Sharina, director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow has been arrested on charges of “extremism” related to materials found in the library’s collection during a search.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

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Russian Parliament Wants To Fine Gays Who Come Out; Condemns US Foreign Policy to Defend LGBT Rights

The State Duma or lower house of the Russian parliament wants to fine members of the LGBT community who publicly acknowledge their sexual preferences, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing a document on the official web site of the Duma.

The MPs says that persons who “publicly demonstrate their perverted sexual preferences in public places” should be fined 5,000 rubles ($77), and if they come out in educational or cultural institutions or government offices, they could face up to 15 days of prison.

The text of the proposed legislation which has been dubbed the kaming-aut law, a transliteration of the English phrase “coming out,” contains a number of homophobic ideas and cites Russian doctors and even invokes Hillary Clinton to drive home the point that the promotion of the gay identity is “a serious danger to society” (translation by The Interpreter):

“Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights” is the thesis of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On December 6, 2011, US President Barack Obama issued a directive declaring the fight for the rights of sexual minorities abroad (!) as a priority of American foreign policy and urged a rapid response to “serious incidents” threatening the rights of the LGBT communities (communities of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered).

The holding of gay parades, during which people come out on the streets not to defend their rights but to demonstrate their perverted, atypical sexuality, is directly related to such propaganda. It turns out that these events are public shows aimed at demonstrating sexual orientation and affirming a positive image of homosexuality in society, no matter what political slogans and European conventions they hide behind. Moreover, a simple demonstration of non-traditional sexual preferences by representatives of the sexual minorities in places of mass gathering, public transport, etc. can lead to the same consequences.

Such propaganda of homosexuality constitutes a special danger for children and adolescents, who are sometimes particularly vulnerable to suggestion. The aggressive promotion of homosexual views, including under cover of defense of human rights is clearly provocative in nature.

In the opinion of prominent scientists, professional sexologists, and members of the Association of Sexologists of Russia (V.M. Maslov, I.L. Botnevaya, D.D. Enikeyeva), homosexuality is a socially conditioned disease, subject to the laws of social contagion, and the more examples of perverted gender-role behvior (perversions, in medical terminology), even with the caveat that it is “bad,” that the growing generation will see on the streets, the more chances
they will have to traverse a distorted path of formation of gender role identity, to be confused about their self-image and become the sought-after prey of already-formed homosexuals and pedophiles.

The authors of the draft law are Ivan Nikitchuk, first deputy chair of the Duma’s committee on natural resources and Nikolai Aryefyev, deputy chair of the committee on economic policy.

Nikitchuk is a long-time Communist leader who in the Soviet era held the post of first secretary of the Arzamas-16 party committee, the location of Russia’s secret nuclear weapons development. He was elected to the Duma in 1995 and has held his seat since, campaigning (unsuccessfully) for the ban on the use of tobacco by women under 40.

Nikolai Aryefyev has been head of the Astrakhan regional Communist Party branch and has been repeatedly elected to the Duma as a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and is a member of the Communist faction of the Duma.

Veteran human rights campaigner Ludmila Alexeyeva said the initiative was “nonsense” and quipped that the legislators should introduce a law on “communist coming-out,” said Novaya Gazeta.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Convicted Murderer of Chechen Politician Yamadayev Brought to Moscow for Interrogation in Nemtsov Case
Aslanbek Dadayev, the convicted murderer of Chechen military leader and politician Ruslan Yamadayev is being transported to Moscow for questioning in a number of high-profile cases, including the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, reported. Dadayev was also sentenced for the attempted murder of banker Aleksandr Antonov and is serving a total of 20 years in a labor colony in Arkhangelsk Region.

A source in law-enforcement told Rosbalt that Dadayev will be asked about the contractors of the murder and assault for which he was convicted, which were never revealed, but about which he is said to have information.

Some of the suspects in the Nemtsov murder case are related to those in the Yamadayev case, said the source, who said Dadayev was now “not refusing to give testimony” as he was before.

Another source told Rosbalt that he was skeptical that Dadayev could provide any information of use and that he was an “old hand” at dissembling. He added that, regarding the contract on Yamadayev and Antonov, Dadayev’s story is that the order came not from Chechnya but bankers in Moscow, and the crimes are related to their internal disputes. He did not believe this story had changed.

The Russian media has repeatedly cited the ties between Zaur Dadayev, the chief suspect in the Nemtsov murder and a powerful Chechen senator, Suleiman Geremeyev. His nephew, Ruslan Geremeyev, was Dadayev’s commander in the Sever Battalion. Ruslan was with Dadayev in Moscow at the time of the murder, and was also in communication with Suleiman.

Rosbalt notes that at the time of the investigation of the Yamadayev and Antonov cases, the involvement of Suleiman Geremeyev was being investigated. Elimpashi Khatsuyev, one of the murderers was in touch with a man named “Suleiman.” Dadayev also communicated during this period with a man named “Adam” who is believed to be Adam Delimkhanov, another Chechen senator who is the cousin of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Suleiman denied any involvement with the murders when he was interrogated in 2009. He said he knew Delimkhanov, who was his relative, as a police officer. A month later, Geremeyev was appointed senator from Chechnya and remains in this position.

Nikolai Tutevich, the current investigator of Nemtsov’s case, who who replaced the one originally appointed known for having prosecuted ultranationalists convicted of murder, is the same man who investigated Yamadayev’s murder years ago.

Nemtsov was murdered on the night of February 27 on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge outside the Kremlin walls on the eve of a large march to protest the war in Ukraine and economic crisis in Russia. After a few announcements in early March, Russian officials have made no more official statements since then, and everything we know about the course of the investigation has been leaked to the press.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Natalya Sharina, Director of Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow, Arrested on Charges of ‘Extremism’; Books and Computers Seized

Natalya Sharina, director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow has been detained by  police, Novaya Gazeta and Interfax report citing law-enforcement sources.

Currently Sharina is under interrogation. Officials have not confirmed the arrest. Unian originally reported, citing TASS, that she was to be held for 48 hours. She has now been taken into custody on charges of “extremism” on the basis of materials found in the library, Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported.

Earlier, the library was searched and agents confiscated documents, electronic devices and some books. Reportedly they said the library had copies of newspapers that could be “of a Russophobic nature,” Interfax reported. TASS said the books “apparently distort historical facts.”

The apartment of Valery Semenenko, co-chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia was also searched today. Semenenko later told RFE/RL that people in masks with machine guns rather rudely took his electronic devices, flash cards and a large amount of literature.

Even back in 2010, the Library of Ukrainian Literature was declared to be distributing books that were anti-Russian in both the sense of against ethnic Russians and against citizens of Russia (anti-russkiy and anti-rossiyskiy). A criminal case was opened on charges of “extremist materials” but then later closed.

A Unian correspondent in Moscow reported that a masked  soldier from the OMON (riot) troops was not letting anyone into the building, saying the library was closed, and also forbade photography. A spokesman for the Investigative Committee who refused to give his name said there was no search  of the building but it was closed “because we’re here.”

Library workers later reported that the police had planted nationalist literature in the collection, and they had recorded this.  “The methods are old. It’s possible they planted the very same books they did several years ago. The search is still underway,” he said.

Sharina’s home was also searched and several books, including a work about the Holodomor or mass famine of 1932-1933 by Oksana Zabuzhko, containing material from European, Ukrainian and American researchers was confiscated, along with several copies of newspapers from 2011 and citations from former President Viktor Yushchenko, desposed president Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov expressing their gratitude to the library. Office equipment and electronic devices were seized.

Sharina believes the searches are related to the criminal case opened in 2010, then closed. She noted that the reading room and loan collection did not contain any banned literature. The special stacks had the works of Stepan Bandera, a controversial Ukrainian revolutionary, as well as about the ultranationalist  Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN-UPA), but none of the books taken were in the Russian government’s list of banned extremist materials.

Investigators seized a copy of Barvinok, a children’s magazine, because they said it allegedly had a picture of the flag of the ultranationalist Right Sector in it.

Coynash reported that REN-TV claimed police were looking for copies of Chas Rukhu, one of whose authors if Boris Tarasyuk, former Ukrainian Foreign Ministery and deputy leader of Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchnyna party.

She said another library in Russian-occupied Crimea was fined for having 12 books about the Holodomor including Vasyl Marochko’s Genocide of Ukrainians: Holodomor 1932/1933, which is on the Russian government’s list of extremist materials.

Russia’s Sova Center, a group tracking extremist movements in Russia has condemned the resumption of the criminal proceedings (translation by Halya Coynash):

“A library is designed for storing printed material, not for propaganda of the ideas expressed in such material.  The point of its existence is to provide researchers and those simply interested with access to a whole range of Ukrainian thought.  We would furthermore point out that according to the Library Code, a library is obliged to hold all incoming material.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick