In 2021, after rallies in support of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and subsequent mass repressions, many activists decided to leave Russia to seek political asylum abroad. One of them was yesterday’s schoolboy from Chelyabinsk, Alexander Kashevarov, who was barely 18 years old. In Russia, a criminal case was opened against him under the “Dada” article.
Present Tense tells how Kashevarov left for the Netherlands and what is happening there with him and other political emigrants from the Urals.
18-year-old former coordinator of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Vesna movement, Alexander Kashevarov, became the youngest Russian activist against whom a criminal case was opened under the “Dada” article (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) – repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events. In this case, he became a suspect in May this year, while he was in 11th grade and was preparing for the exam. This summer, he was going to enter the Faculty of History of ChelSU, but due to criminal prosecution he was forced to change his plans and buy a one-way ticket to Amsterdam.
Kashevarov says that he began to closely follow the socio-political life in Russia since 2018 – then he was not even sixteen. In June 2020, an active student had the opportunity to prove himself: he was accepted into the “Spring” youth movement and was appointed a coordinator in Chelyabinsk. The summer of 2020 is remembered by many for large all-Russian rallies in support of Khabarovsk (they protested there against the arrest of Governor Furgal) and against amendments to the Constitution and the nullification of the presidential terms of Vladimir Putin. On August 20 of the same year, opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. The next day Kashevarov, together with the activists of “Spring” and supporters of the movement, held his first major action “Tea for the FSB”: people on Kirovka street in Chelyabinsk put glasses with the words “Lech knows that Russia will be free.”
“Then there were suggestions that the poison was poured into Navalny’s tea, so with such an action we decided to draw attention to the attempt on the life of the oppositionist. We decided to build our activities around actionism in order to draw the attention of young people to current problems of politically important events in a creative format,” remembers Kashevarov.
Kashevarov’s second notable action was a solo picket in memory of journalist Irina Slavina, who on October 2, 2020, committed an act of self-immolation near the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Nizhny Novgorod region. According to him, then he prepared a solution of boron ethyl ether in advance, poured it over his jacket, and activist Anastasia Shishkova, also a minor, set it on fire. In such a burning single picket and with a poster “The state will not be able to extinguish the fire of our indignation” Kashevarov stood for several minutes, after which the young people put out the flame.
After the action, the police drew up the first protocol against Kashevarov under the article on participation in an unapproved public event – part 5 of Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code. Anastasia Shishkova, who set fire to Kashevarov’s jacket during the picket, was charged with a violation of fire safety requirements – part 6 of article 20.4 of the Administrative Code. Subsequently, the court appointed Kashevarov 20 hours of compulsory work, and the case against Shishkova was terminated by the juvenile commission.
On January 23, 2021, Kashevarov was detained for the first time during a rally in support of Alexei Navalny. Then he was released from the police station without drawing up a protocol. On January 31, before the second march in support of Navalny, Kashevarov was again detained, and even then a protocol was drawn up against him under the article on organizing a public event without giving notice – part 2 of article 20.2 of the Administrative Code. According to the activist, the reason for drawing up such a protocol was that “Vesna” announced the action in social networks. Since Kashevarov was still a minor at that time, the court appointed him not an arrest, but a 20 thousand fine.
The next public event held by the Viasna activists in Chelyabinsk was an action in memory of the politician Boris Nemtsov, who was killed in Moscow in February 2015. The day before the action, employees of Center “E” came to the school where Kashevarov studied, detained the activist and took him to the police department, where he spent the night. The next day, the court appointed him 5 days of administrative arrest in the case of organizing an uncoordinated action.
On May 1, Kashevarov began his spring break, which he planned to spend in Yerevan. When the activist went through passport control at the Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airport and got on the plane, the security forces got on the plane and detained Kashevarov. First, he was taken to the police station at the airport, and then taken to Chelyabinsk, where he was assigned the status of a suspect in a criminal case under the article on repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events.
Then Kashevarov was released on recognizance not to leave. In addition, his house was searched, during which a new hard drive, old notes from the detention center, a video camera and a USB flash drive with homework assignments were seized.
According to Kashevarov, his parents were not ready for the searches, either legally or psychologically.
“When a crowd of cops rushes into your house and turns over all things, it’s clear that it’s not easy to calm down. I gave them some minimum recommendations on what to do in the event of a search, what to sign, what to photograph and what to demand, ”Kashevarov explained.
“The absurdity of this case is that as of May 1, only one court decision came into force for me – an administrative arrest after the action in memory of Boris Nemtsov. The other two cases were in the process of appeal, and the security officials had no grounds to initiate.” dadinki, “Kashevarov explains.
“A child in another country is better than a child in prison.” Emigration
The young man started thinking about emigration in July of this year. He chose between Germany and the Netherlands, but settled on the second option, since he had already heard about the successful experience of moving to this country from several activists. As a result, Kashevarov bought an air ticket from Moscow to Kiev with a transfer in Amsterdam, where he approached local police officers with a request for political asylum.
“I told the police that I was a political activist and needed political asylum. The police reacted quite calmly, as if it was some kind of routine for them. I spent the night at the airport, in the morning I went to the counter indicated by the police and filled out the test. there was a short survey whether I got to them legally, whether I have open visas and whether I am sure that I want to get political asylum in this particular country, “Kashevarov said.
Then he was transferred to the Ter Apel refugee camp, which, according to the activist, is somewhat reminiscent of a Russian sanatorium. There Kashevarov was provided with a single room. Inside the building there is a gym, a library and a computer room. Alexander spent a week in Ter Apel, during which he underwent a medical examination and a document check. He was then transferred to another camp near Overloon, which Kashevarov said is a former juvenile prison reformatted specifically for refugees. There the activist had his first interview with an employee of the migration service. The second conversation is scheduled for the near future, after this interview, and there will be an exact result of whether Kashevarov will be granted political asylum or not.
“The daily routine here is absolutely free, we only have to celebrate once a week. In September I was remotely involved in politics – I helped coordinate the work of election observers in Chelyabinsk. Now I am a member of the federal coordinating council” Vesna “. The post of regional coordinator is understandable passed for reasons, “- added the activist.
Together with Kashevarov, two Russians live in the camp, a citizen of Ukraine, a journalist from Uzbekistan. The activist is now planning to enroll in free Dutch language courses. For accommodation, the state gives Kashevarov 50 euros per week, which come to the issued card. The activist is free to spend this money at his own discretion: the Dutch authorities do not require any accountability from him.
“The issue of emigration, of course, I discussed with my parents, it was all decided not overnight. In the end, they came to the conclusion that their child in another country would be a better option than a child in prison. Therefore, they were sympathetic to the fact that I’m leaving, but they still miss me, “says Kashevarov.
Pickets in Putin’s mask and “Dadinskaya” article: how Yevgeny Zhukov left
Alexander Kashevarov is not the only Urals activist who moved to the Netherlands this year. In May 2021, having collected about 60 thousand rubles, the former coordinator of AgitRussia in Kurgan, 23-year-old Yevgeny Zhukov, flew to Amsterdam. According to him, he did this after the security forces threatened him with the “Dada” article and other criminal cases if he did not cooperate with them.
In February 2019, Zhukov held a rally near the building of the local FSB headquarters: an activist wearing a mask of Vladimir Putin handed out leaflets urging them to pay taxes. A few days later, the security forces arrived at Zhukov’s home and detained him. After that, the court appointed the activist 15 days of arrest under the article on repeated violation of the rules for holding a public event – part 8 of article 20.2 of the Administrative Code. A complaint against this decision was sent to the ECHR.
In the summer of the same year, a case was opened against Zhukov under the article on disrespect for the authorities – under Part 3 of Art. 20.1 Administrative Code. The reason was his post on VKontakte with a song called “Putin – x *** o” (choosing a popular offensive chant as the title, Zhukov composed the rest of the text himself). At the trial, he petitioned to bring Putin as a victim in the case, but was refused. As a result, in August 2019, the court sentenced Evgeny Zhukov to a fine of 40 thousand rubles.
In 2021, at the rally in support of Alexei Navalny in Kurgan, Yevgeny Zhukov was filming what was happening, but was detained by the police. Then a protocol was drawn up against him under the article on participation in an uncoordinated event, the court appointed Zhukov 20 hours of compulsory work.
On the morning of April 30, Zhukov woke up from persistent knocking on the door. Police and FSB officers stood on the doorstep.
“They took me to the FSB department in the Kurgan region. There they tried to get information about the activists and the leadership of the former” AgitRussia “, while they persuaded me to cooperate, threatening the” Dada “article and extremism if I did not begin to cooperate with them” in an amicable way “. To all their questions, I replied that I would use Article 51 of the Constitution. Before letting me go, they said that I have a maximum of five days to start a dialogue with them” in an amicable way. “Then I realized: if you don’t leave, you sit down, “Zhukov said.
In early May, Evgeny packed his things and decided to leave Russia. According to him, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he did not have many options, therefore, having reached Amsterdam, he approached the local police and told them that he needed political asylum. What happened next was almost the same as in the case of Kashevarov: a week in a refugee camp, interviews, medical examinations. From May 18 to October 25, he lived in an open refugee camp. As a result, Zhukov received a residence permit, as well as an apartment not far from Amsterdam. According to him, this is social housing provided by the state, which he rents for 560 euros per month. It is expected that Zhukov will pay for the apartment from the allowance, and the authorities will return 50% of the rent to the activist. In addition, Zhukov was given 4608 euros on credit to make repairs, since the apartment was rented out almost empty. In the near future, Eugene plans to enroll in Dutch language courses.