Barnaul's injustice has handed down a verdict of opposition activist Vadim Ostanin

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According to a number of media reports, on 24 July 2023, the Central District Court of Barnaul sentenced Vadim Ostanin, a former deputy of the City Duma of Biysk and coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in Barnaul, to nine years in a general regime colony.

 Ostanin was found guilty under articles on the organisation of an extremist community (part 1 of article 282.1 of the Criminal Code) and participation in a non-profit organisation that infringes on the personality and rights of citizens (part 3 of article 239 of the Criminal Code).

It is impossible to believe in the judge's nonsense that Vadim was the organiser of the extremist community in his sane mind and bright memory.

Local media say that one of the witnesses for the prosecution was a member of the Altai Territory Legislative Assembly (AKZS), who previously also worked in the headquarters of Alexei Navalny.

I would like to know the name of this "rotter" who testified against Vadim!

I have known Vadim since 2016. In 2016, there were to be elections for deputies to the AKZS, and I was puzzled by the selection of candidates for the elections from the Yabloko party. Even in those years it was not easy to find 50-60 people ready to declare their opposition position publicly and to go through the election marathon to the finish line. At that time, after the first publication of the list of candidates, several people refused to participate in the elections. Some were promised career advancement, others were intimidated. Vadim turned out to be a steadfast comrade.

Another well-known oppositionist in Biysk, Sergei Gorr, introduced us. After the election campaign in the ACE, the law enforcement agencies fabricated a criminal case against Sergei, and he had to emigrate from Russia.

Vadim already had parliamentary and political experience. He was elected a deputy to the City Duma of Biysk in 2008.  He was director of the company "OfficeOptSnab", headed the city's youth public organisation "Patriot", regularly received citizens and helped to solve urgent problems of the city.

  Unlike some candidates Vadim and Sergey during the election campaign, as candidates in single-mandate districts did not try to "pull the blanket" on themselves, and actively worked for the all-party list, in particular, collected signatures for the early resignation of the long-time governor of the region Alexander Karlin. A few years later, when Karlin resigned, some politicians and journalists began to write how they allegedly fought against the "Karlin regime". When in fact they were all subserviently ingratiating themselves to Carlin. A year later, I think I got a "backlash" for these signatures in the form of an attempt to fabricate a criminal case against me. At that time, it was fashionable for law enforcers to initiate criminal proceedings against opponents of the political regime for alleged economic or sexual offences. I described the details of this case in the chapter "Altai law enforcers and power" in my memoirs:  "I chose a foreign land, and only God is my judge!" .

One day I received a call from Olga Fotieva, deputy head of Navalny's headquarters, who in 2011 worked in the election headquarters of the Yabloko party. In 2016, she, like Vadim, was a candidate for the AKZS from Yabloko. Olga asked my opinion of Vadim. Ostanin's candidacy was being considered for the post of head of Navalny's headquarters in Biysk. I gave Vadim the most flattering characterisation. I am far from thinking that my recommendations were decisive in his appointment, but a certain feeling of guilt towards Vadim formed in my soul after I learnt of his arrest.

Time passed. Vadim and I, despite the fact that I was still the head of the Yabloko party in the region and he had become a prominent figure in Navalny's movement, occasionally returned phone calls. He participated in several of my seminars for human rights defenders and members of Public Monitoring Commissions (PMCs) on monitoring human rights in places of detention (police departments, temporary detention centres, remand centres (SIZOs), correctional colonies (CCs), etc.) in the Siberian Federal District. In 2019, when the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation announced the formation of a new ONC of Altai Krai Vadim, I and my colleagues submitted documents with a desire to work in the ONC of the fifth convocation. We sent the documents to Moscow by first class mail in advance, but they arrived at the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation two weeks after the deadline for accepting documents.

When I learnt about it, I was upset. After all, I was the chairman of the first three convocations of the Altai Territory's ONC, and after not participating in the work of the fourth convocation of the ONC (according to the law, you can participate in the work of the ONC for no more than three consecutive convocations), my colleagues and I had big plans for work in the new composition of the ONC.

The first three convocations of the Altai Territory's ONC were among the most effective in the Russian Federation. The results of the work of the ONC can be found here.

At the time, I was upset to learn that our documents had been lost, but today I think it's good that it happened that way. Vadim Ostanin, if he had become a member of the ONC, would have made many enemies in the prison system of the Krai, and with them personal executioners who would have been waiting for him in pre-trial detention centres and penal correctional institutions. 

After the leaders of Navalny's movement in the region, Artem Kosaretsky and Olga Fotieva, stepped aside, and Navalny's headquarters resumed its work in Altai, Vadim Ostanin became the leader. 

 In early February 2021, the regional branch of the Yabloko party decided to hold an action in memory of Boris Nemtsev in Barnaul, and we invited Navalny's headquarters, the Parnas party, and the Viasna youth movement as our partners in preparing and holding the action. In fact, a headquarters was created, which in addition to me included Vadim Ostanin and Viktor Rau, a well-known public figure in the region. I would like to remind you that at that time there were still many restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The current political regime in Russia managed to use the pandemic in its own interests. All sanitary and epidemic measures were applied selectively. The authorities could hold parades and concerts of thousands in their favour, while for a solitary picket any oppositionist could get an administrative arrest or at best a fine.  That's why I not only submitted a notice to the city administration, but also entered into some kind of multi-day negotiations with the officials. Obviously, I could not fully inform Victor and Vadim about the course of the negotiations, and this caused some tension in our relationship. During the negotiation process I managed to outplay the authorities, and they were forced to agree to our action on 28 February (details for another time).

Nikolai Rybakov, chairman of the Yabloko party, flew to the rally, eager to speak. He had little choice which city to fly to. Barnaul was practically the only large city in which the action in memory of Boris Nemtsov was approved.

The rally was held on Freedom Square at the monument to the victims of political repression. Freedom Square is not a crowded place, but we then, despite the pandemic, long coordination of the rally with the city authorities managed to gather about 100 people on a frosty day.  Vadim Ostanin also spoke during the public event. Fortunately the video of the rally is still available and can be viewed here. The voice-over belongs to Barnaul journalist Maria Ponomarenko, who has been sentenced to six colonies in the case of "fakes" about the Russian armed forces .

 We last met with Vadim Ostanin in March 2020 at his office. During the conversation, I suggested that Vadim and his colleagues join the list of the Yabloko party in the upcoming elections to the AKZS. Vadim asked when the nomination of the list would take place, and on hearing that it would be in July, as it seemed to me, he sadly remarked that he still had to live to see July and stay free.  Some time later I tried to call him, but his phone was silent, he just disappeared.

Then there was a complicated election campaign with a predetermined result.

On 24 February 2022, Putin launched a full-scale military aggression against Ukraine, modestly calling it a Special Military Operation (SMO).  A few days later, I wrote my anti-war statement: I can't and won't be silent!

A few days later, I took to the streets of Barnaul with a placard: No to War!

On 4 March 2022, new repressive laws were passed in Russia, under which one can go to prison from 3 to 15 years for "false" information about the actions of the Russian army abroad, for "discrediting" the Russian armed forces, for calling for sanctions against Russia.  

On 11 March I became aware of the possible initiation of criminal proceedings against me and on 13 March my wife and I crossed the border of Kazakhstan with adventures (details in the chapter "Do Russians Want War? " in my memoirs:  "I chose a foreign land, and only God is my judge!". ).

Six months later, we emigrated from kind but unsafe Kazakhstan to Germany.

During all this time I did not know how Vadim's fate had turned out. I thought that if he disappeared from the public space, then, like Sergei Gorr, he had managed to hide from the Russian security forces. 

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Already in Germany, I learnt that Vadim Ostanin had been arrested.

It turns out that the security forces detained Vadim Ostanin back in December 2021. Three months later, the court arrested him.

While awaiting trial, Ostanin spent more than a year in the pre-trial detention centre. There his health deteriorated, he lost 15 kilograms.

Being in pre-trial detention centre for a 46-year-old man like Vadim Ostanin had a negative impact on his health.  In his interview with "Sirena" he said that he had not seen his relatives for a year, the investigators offered him to confess - "then everything will be resolved". Vadim refused. "They shouted, swore, demanded from me stories about my case, promised me a bad attitude if I did not tell everything. After about a week I was transferred to the punishment cell," recalls Ostanin. According to the political prisoner, he was kept for a long time in a six-metre cell - it was "a basement with a window covered with rubbish". There was no hot water and no normal sleeping place, rats, spiders and ants were crawling there. Once the cell was flooded with water. During a year of such detention, Ostanin's health deteriorated sharply. According to him, his eyesight became weak, his back pain worsened, and his leg became weak. At the same time, Vadim was forbidden to use medicines that were given to him from the outside and was not given proper medical care.

The human rights organisation Memorial has recognised Vadim Ostanin as a political prisoner. 

As a human rights defender who has been dealing with the Russian prison system for many years, I would say that our primary task in helping political prisoners is to mention their names on all available public platforms, in the media, and on the social networks of the Internet on the principle: No one is forgotten!

The situation is such that the keys to the prison cells of Russian political prisoners lie in the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukraine's military victory over the aggressor and the restoration of the Russian-Ukrainian borders of 1991, against the backdrop of economic sanctions, will lead to a split in the elites, to the displeasure of the deep people, and may end in the collapse of the Putin regime.

Even if not immediately, but after some period of time, democratic processes will begin in Russia, and with them the release of all political prisoners, including Vadim Ostanin.

I hope that in New Russia will not forget and will not forgive all law enforcers who carried out criminal orders and judges who made unjust decisions!

Alexander Goncharenko, doctor, Russian politician and human rights activistFsS4goaXgAAEH4l