In Prisons and Camps, March 1978 (48.10)

A Meeting Before Execution

Captain (3rd class) V.M. Sablin, under whose command the Baltic Fleet vessel “Headlong” [Stremitelny] tried to defect to Sweden (CCE 43), was sentenced to be shot. On the eve of his execution, he was granted a 20-minute meeting with his father, a retired colonel. The meeting took place in the presence of a large group of K G B officials. It was permissible to talk only on “personal subjects”.

Valery Mikhailovich SABLIN (b. 1939) comes from Gorky, and is a descendant of the Decembrist N.A. Bestuzhev. He participated in several round-the-world sailings and was awarded two Orders of Lenin.

One of his brothers, who worked in the General Staff, has been transferred to the Far East. Another, a teacher in an institution of higher education, has been moved to Ivanovo.

MVD Directives on Conditions of Detention

(contd. See CCE 46 for part 1)

Directive No. 125 (dated 1 October 1975)

concerns MVD medical institutions and medical service in corrective-labour institutions (the healthcare of prisoners was covered in CCE 46). The directive stipulates that prisoners who, while in MVD medical institutions, break the regulations may be subjected to all the corrective measures provided for in the RSFSR Corrective Labour Code (Article 53) up to and including the cooler, the punishment cells and the punishment barracks.

Directive No. 0179 (1968)

relates to regional Internal Affairs information centres. A special information card is kept in two copies for each convicted person in an investigative detention centre / prison. One copy is sent to the regional Internal Affairs information centre at the place of trial, the other goes into the personal file (which always accompanies the prisoner).

Directive No. 0779 (dated 30 September 1977)

deals with persons given a suspended sentence or conditionally released with compulsory recruitment for labour.

In February 1978 new regulations were read out in the camps.

Amongst them:

  • when calculating the date of a routine visit, days spent in the punishment cell or cooler are excluded;
  • remittances of money, printed matter and parcels are accepted only from relatives;
  • purchase of tea from the camp shop is restricted to 50 grammes a month;
  • tinned meat is permitted in parcels.

(See also below the letter of Airikyan and others, dated 14 March 1978.)

Vladimir Prison

In January 1978, Gilel Butman of the “aeroplane case” was transferred to the prison from Perm Camp 35 until the end of his sentence (i.e., 15 June 1980). Butman is in Vladimir Prison for the second time (CCEs 34, 39).

On 9 September 1977, D. Airapetov (CCE 44) returned to the prison. He has been moved to Vladimir Prison for a year for refusing to work. In the prison he was put on strict regime for two months.

In January 1978, Anatoly Zdorovy (CCEs 33, 35, 44) was sent back to a camp (in CCE 35 there is an inaccuracy). His sentence ends in 1979.

*

On 29 December 1976, Konstantinovsky was given seven days in the punishment cells for refusing to report the number of prisoners in his cell to the block warder. At the end of March 1977 Konstantinovsky got eight days for the same reason. At the beginning of April, he got 10 days for failing to stand up when a prison official entered (CCE 46). On 22 April he got 15 days for calling Captain Fedotov a sadist. The cell in which he was incarcerated had broken window-panes.  Konstantinovsky knocked on the door, summoning a warder, and demanded that the panes be replaced. For knocking on the door, he got an extra 10 days. At the end of July Konstantinovsky again got 15 days for insulting the prison administration.

*

On 2 May 1977, N. Bondar (now released, Chronicle) got 10 days in the punishment cells for “communicating between cells”.

On 29 September 1977, during exercise, N. Bondar found a note from one of the prisoners. When escorts ran up to him, Bondar began to chew the note before the eyes of the guards. For this, that very day he was sent to the punishment cells for 15 days. At the time, prisoner Nikolai Dudin was in the next-door cell. Dudin was in the throes of a severe attack of asthma and was coughing up blood. He was banging on the door, begging for assistance. The warders, for their part, threw a rag into the cell from time to time for him to wipe the blood off the floor. Bondar also started knocking on his door and calling for a doctor. Finally, a doctor did examine Dudin. She said she did not have the right to release him from the cell although his state of health required it urgently. When Dudin’s spell in the cell was nearing its end, he was told that for shouting and banging on the door he was being punished with another 15 days.

*

On 24 July 1977, while he was on hunger strike, V. Fedorenko (CCE 39) got 15 days in the punishment cells for attempting to send a letter bypassing the prison censorship, then they extended his period by another 15 days for calling Captains Doinikov, Obrubov and Fedotov cannibals in a statement addressed to the prison administration.

Fedorenko was only issued with a trestle-bed for “round-the-clock use” after he had been 22 days in the punishment cells. (According to regulations, when a person on hunger strike is put into these cells this must be done immediately.)

For almost all the time Fedorenko was in the cells he was forcibly fed once every five days. Only at the end of his spell was he fed every other day.

After he had been 30 days in the punishment cells Fedorenko, whose condition was very grave, called off his hunger strike.

*

It has become known that the artificial feed forcibly administered to persons on hunger strike does not conform to prescribed norm: often the regulation sugar, meat and eggs are not added to the watery pap, while butter is replaced by other fats.

*

In the spring of 1977, the prison administration started persistently demanding that prisoners should keep their hands behind their backs when led out for exercise. Superfin and Popadyuk refused to carry out this order. Their cellmates Turik, Antonyuk and Zdorovy supported them. At the same time Balakhonov, in another cell, also refused to put his hands behind his back. As CCE 46 has already reported, Superfin was punished for this with 15 days in the punishment cells; Turik, Popadyuk and Zdorovy got 10 days.

Then they were prevented from going out to exercise altogether, “for violating the exercise regime” [1]. Then, on 26 August, “for not going out for exercise”, Superfin, Antonyuk and Balakhonov (CCE 47) were deprived of a routine visit (Turik and Popadyuk had been taken to the Ukraine at that time, CCE 46). In September Superfin and Balakhonov were threatened with being put on strict regime for the same reason.

In mid-September 1977, an order from the prison governor Lieutenant-Colonel Ugodin was read over the prison radio, stating that from 15 September 1977 all prisoners not having an exemption from the doctor would be obliged to go out for exercise. Refusal to take a walk without valid reason would be regarded as violation of the regime and be strictly punished.

in the official commentary on the RSFSR Corrective Labour Code (Moscow, Legal Literature publishers, 1973, p. 179) it states that “A daily walk is the right of a person kept in prison.” However, in the “Regulations on Internal Procedures”, which are confirmed by MVD Directive number 20, it is written that a walk is both the right and the obligation of a prisoner.

*

Prisoner Zdorovy has for a long time been trying unsuccessfully to have the foodstuffs which are among his personal belongings in the store, issued to him: lump sugar he received when he was still in an investigation prison, granulated sugar which was issued to him for rations in a camp, and dried and condensed milk which he received as extra rations for harmful working conditions. In addition, during a search in December 1976 they confiscated sunflower oil from him.

In August 1977 Captain Fedotov, deputy prison governor for security, announced over the prison radio an instruction to the effect that henceforward convicts arriving at the prison would be allowed to take only five packets of tobacco with them into their cells. It was forbidden to take any remaining tobacco and any food products into cells. With regard to provisions in the prisoners’ possession, the prison administration would dispatch enquiries to the camp or investigation prison in order to ascertain if these foodstuffs really did belong to the person in question (among convicts in the Perm and Mordovian camps there exists a tradition of sharing provisions with people about to be transported, Chronicle). If the reply to the enquiry was negative, the food products and tobacco would be inventoried and destroyed. In the event of a positive answer, they would remain in the store with the prisoner’s personal belongings and would be issued to him only on his departure from the prison. This innovation by the administration has been approved by the regional Procuracy.

*

The situation regarding correspondence in Vladimir Prison remains the same.

Letters from Zdorovy took two to three months to reach his family. The censor explained this by referring to the need for translation from Ukrainian into Russian.

In the summer of 1977 Antonyuk and Bondar gave up writing letters in protest at illegal confiscation of their correspondence.

The Prison administration does not inform inmates about the confiscation of letters arriving for them.

*

From 19 April to 19 May 1977 Antonyuk was in hospital. Apparently, he had a severe attack of angina (not a heart attack, as reported in CCE 45). In the middle of September Antonyuk had a new attack. This time they did not put him in hospital. In addition, Antonyuk has serious diseases of the liver and kidneys.

*

The Prison administration is using the following methods to fight hunger strikes by common criminal inmates. In 1977 a special cell for three persons was allotted to hunger-strikers. Two criminals were kept permanently in it, ostensibly on hunger strike. By means of threats and beatings they would try to force the third person, who really was on hunger-strike, to call it off. If they succeeded, the former hunger striker was kept in the cell for another three or four days, but the food ration he started to receive was taken from him by his cellmates.

*

As CCE 46 has already reported, common criminals are being beaten up.

In April 1977, for complaining, prisoner V.P. Rukin was repeatedly put in cell 3-57 with specially-picked neighbours, where he was beaten up (the prisoners call such cells press-khata or ‘punch chambers’). When Rukin was dragged off for a routine spell in cell 3-57, he started resisting. The warders (a special squad nicknamed ’the boots commando’ in the Prison) then then gave him a beating in the punishment cell. The “boots commando” was led by Captain Fedotov.

After this, Rukin sent a complaint to the MVD by an illegal channel. On 8 June he was summoned to an interview with a lieutenant-colonel who refused to introduce himself but said he was from the MVD and had come to look into the complaint. He was not interested in the substance of the complaint but tried to discover how Rukin had managed to send this document and evade the Prison’s special section.

The Mordovian Camps

Camp 1 (Special Regime)

There are 32 people in the camp, of whom 15 are political prisoners (cp. CCE 47).

*

In September 1977, the camp administration allowed Edward Kuznetsov a scheduled short visit. This permission was confirmed at the beginning of December. On 16 December Yelena Bonner arrived to visit Kuznetsov. The acting commandant Major Sergushin refused E. Bonner the visit. He referred to MVD instructions, according to which the question as to who, apart from relatives, are to be allowed short visits is decided by the administration.

E. Bonner, and A.D. Sakharov who had accompanied her, decided to wait in Sosnovka for a final decision on the matter. They sent telegrams to the head of Camp ZhKh-385 and to the Main Administration for Corrective Labour Institutions in Moscow, complaining about Sergushin’s refusal. The next day they were told that Yavas and Moscow had confirmed the local administration’s decision. On 20 December, the Sakharovs went to Yavas and talked to deputy head of the camp complex Colonel Suchkov. They set out their arguments in a written statement: Article 26 of the Russian Corrective Labour Code allows a visit from “relatives or other persons”, without qualifying this by further conditions; Bonner is named in Kuznetsov‘s case amongst those close to him, she acts on behalf of his mother and has visited him several times; Kuznetsov has not infringed the regulations. The next day Lieutenant-Colonel Krivov confirmed the refusal. Bonner again asked for the decision on the visit to be reconsidered, and also for a parcel for Kuznetsov to be accepted as his first food parcel. (The first half of Kuznetsov’s term expired on 15 December: no prisoner in such a camp may receive a food parcel until he has served half his sentence.) On 22 December a representative of the administration replied that Bonner would not be allowed a visit and that Kuznetsov was refusing to receive parcels of provisions because the visit had been refused.

A few days later Bella Koval arrived in Sosnovka and tried to obtain a visit to Kuznetsov. Koval is also named in Kuznetsov’s case and has visited him constantly since the time of his first imprisonment. It was at first demanded that Koval should provide a detailed written explanation of how she was related to E. Kuznetsov. She wrote such an explanation but was refused a visit.

Edward Kuznetsov himself, protesting against the ban on a visit from E. Bonner, began a hunger-strike from 17 December. He demanded that he should now be allowed a visit from his wife. (Kuznetsov’s wife Silva Zalmanson, convicted in the same case as he, was unexpectedly pardoned in August 1974, CCE 33, and emigrated to Israel.) During his hunger-strike Kuznetsov also put forward a general demand for an amnesty for all political prisoners in the USSR.

Kuznetsov’s cell-mates M. Osadchy, B. Rebrik, V. Romanyuk and D. Shumuk addressed a letter “To the people of Israel, to all honourable Ukrainians and Jews of the world and to Academician Sakharov”. They write that Kuznetsov’s hunger-strike is mortally dangerous and appeal for intervention in order to save his life. On 26 December M. Osadchy sent an appeal on the same subject to the Procurator of the Mordovian ASSR.

The Sakharovs returned to Moscow on 26 December. On 30 December they sent off a telegram whose contents were as follows:

To the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR,
Leonid Brezhnev, Moscow, The Kremlin

To the world public

Edward Kuznetsov is on hunger-strike for the fourteenth day in a special-regime camp (Mordovian ASSR, Sosnovka, institution ZhKh 385/1-6). This hunger-strike is the only form of protest available to a convict against the tyranny of the camp administration, which has deprived Edward of the possibility of a visit from us. We appeal to you to use your influence so that he receives the visit, which is due to him, and by this to save not only his health but also his life.

At the same time, we remind you of all those convicted in this case in Leningrad in December 1970 — Altman, Dymshits, Zalmanson V., Zalmanson l., Kuznetsov, Mendelevich, Murzhenko, Penson, Fyodorov, Khnokh and, in May 1971, Butman. At that time, the Russian Criminal Code did not contain Article 213-2 about stealing an aircraft — this was introduced in 1973 (Gazette of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet No. 16, 1973) — and they were unjustly condemned under Article 64 (“Betrayal of the Motherland”) and Article 93-1 (“Theft of State or public property in especially large quantities”).

Seven years ago, on 31 December 1970, the RSFSR Supreme Court considered it possible to spare the lives of Dymshits and Kuznetsov. Now half the term has expired even for those who received the maximum punishment, 15 years. A review of the case in accordance with current legislation would be a just act, alleviating the fates not only of those convicted, who have already spent seven and a half years in camps and prisons in the most arduous conditions, but also of their mothers, wives, children and all those close to them.

Yelena Bonner-Sakharova,
Andrei Sakharov, Academician

Having returned to Moscow Bonner continued to hold discussions about Kuznetsov’s visit with the USSR MVD and with Albert Ivanov, the official of the Administrative Affairs department of the CPSU Central Committee who is responsible for the MVD. On 13 January 1978 Ivanov announced that no one would be allowed to visit Kuznetsov.

On 16 January Yelena Bonner and Andrei Sakharov again appealed to the world public. Expressing the fear that without visits from his friends or those close to him Kuznetsov would not end his hunger-strike, they wrote:

…The name of Kuznetsov is known to many. A few years ago, his book Prison Diaries was published in the West. This courageous and talented man was able, in prison, in the death-cell, in camp, in conditions of the harshest persecution, to keep his diary — an intelligent, tragic and honourable document…

We appeal to the world public to defend Edward Kuznetsov and his comrades.

Kuznetsov maintained his hunger-strike until 26 January.

*

In December 1977 Alexei Murzhenko was deprived of the right to a parcel and a scheduled visit which would fall due in February. In the middle of December, he declared a hunger-strike. He was taken to Saransk. After a few days, his wife Lyubov Murzhenko received a telegram from Saransk informing her that in view of the serious deterioration of his state of health, her husband had been allowed a visit. The telegram was certified by a doctor. In Saransk, just after 20 December he was given a special 3-day visit and allowed a large provisions parcel with the right to take it with him to camp.

Continued …