Russian Activist Recounts His Abduction By Russian Security
September 18th, 2010
Russian activist Nikolai Alekseev has posted to his personal Livejournal blog his account of what happened since he was seized by Russian authorities on Wednesday as he was about to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The post is in Russian, but you can read a rough translation as provided by Google Translate here. Andy Hardy at UK Gay News has spoken directly with Nikolai and confirms that the blog post is genuine.
According to Nikolai’s account, he had already passed through Russia’s customs control and security, and was in the International business-class lounge at Domodedovo when security pulled him aside and put him into a separate room. Nikolai protested that his passport had already been stamped and that legally he was no longer in Russia anymore, but those protests were ignored. At that time, he was able to get some messages out to the Russian news service Interfax and the still-independent Radio Echo in Moscow. He was then taken by plainclothes officials through some back hallways and put into a car, and driven to an apparently abandoned police station in the provincial city of Kashira, about sixty miles to the south. (He says he was able to determine this by using his iPad when he was left alone at the station.)
Nikolai then recounts what he describes as “psychological torture” to try to force him to withdraw his lawsuits lodged at the European Court of Human Rights over Moscow’s bans on successive Gay Pride parades and other demonstrations between 2006 and 2010. A paper had already been drawn up to withdraw the lawsuits, which Nikolai refused to sign despite warning against “clashing” with authorities. His captors also pressed him to drop a planned demonstration for September 21 against Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, which he also refused to do.
Nikolai describes some very difficult conditions during his confinement. He was held in an apparently abandoned building and was not allowed to rest or sleep. He was persistently abused over his sexuality throughout the interrogations. He was given glasses of water which he believes was tampered with; he describes losing his concentration and emotional responsiveness during this time. He called for an ambulance but was refused. He demanded to see an attorney and have his detention officially reported, but those requests were denied also.
On Thursday night, Nikolai was taken via dark backroads to the city of Tula, a little over 100 miles south of Moscow. It was here that he was able to learn of the news reports about him, and figured out that his captors had been sending text messages from his phone that he was supposedly in Minsk where he allegedly asked for asylum and withdrew his cases before the European Court. Nikolai remarked that he could never imagine asking for asylum in Belarus, and of course neither could anyone else who understood the situation. It was that development that was the most troubling to all of us who were following the saga.
On Friday evening, Nikolai was taken by car and dumped outside the city of Tula. He made his way back to town, but because his passport had been stamped saying that he was out of the country, he knew he would not be able to take the train back to Moscow. So he ended up taking a bus for the long trip home.
In the end, it’s good to know that Nikolai is safe and back in Moscow, and that he’s just as feisty and determined as ever. His immediate-term plans are to get the GayRussia.ru web site back up, and to participate in the planned demonstration against mayor Luzhkof on Tuesday. He also said that he intends to sue Domodedovo Airport and its security services for his unlawful detention while legally outside of Russia, and he intends to sue Swiss Air in Switzerland as he believes that his contract between himself and the airline was violated under Swiss law. If anything, it would appear that this ordeal accomplished nothing except to make Nikolai more determined to stand up for LGBT equality in Russia and around the world.