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Prisoners of conscience

A group of celebrities is trying to draw attention to alleged miscarriages of justice by being photographed with the children of men and women serving time in prison.

Published: September 28, 2011 (Issue # 1676)



  • Rock musician Yury Shevchuk is pictured with the daughter of Taisia Osipova at a photo session last week.
    Photo: VLADIMIR TELEGIN

Taisia Osipovas requests to see her five-year-old daughter have been repeatedly turned down.

Vladimir Telegin, a local photographer best known for his black-and-white photographs of the punk band PTVP and art group Voina, and Maxim Gromov, founder of the rights group Prisoners Union, have come up with a new series of photographs depicting DDT frontman Yury Shevchuk with the five-year-old daughter of an imprisoned political activist.

Katrin Fomchenkova was brought to St. Petersburg for the photo session from Smolensk, a city about 700 kilometers from St. Petersburg, where her mother Taisia Osipova has been imprisoned since November, when she was arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs. Her supporters say the charges are fabricated, pointing out that prosecution witnesses are kept secret, while pro-Kremlin activists acted as witnesses of the search.

Osipova faces eight to 20 years in prison. Her supporters say that counter-extremism Center E agents planted drugs in her apartment because they wanted Osipova to testify against her husband Sergei Fomchenkov, an activist with The Other Russia political party.

The series is part of a charity campaign titled Children of Political Prisoners of Present-Day Russia, which was launched in February and aims to give publicity to cases of civic and political activists being put in prison on dubious charges across Russia by arranging meetings between their children and celebrities such as Shevchuk, Voina art group and the film actress Liya Akhedzhakova, who have so far taken part in the campaign.

In the video accompanying the photos, Shevchuk says that the public believes the charges against Osipova have been fabricated.

How many people who really do steal from and destroy Russia are at large, while Taisia, a wonderful young woman who only wishes well to people, is in prison? Its not fair, he says.

The photo session took place ahead of another hearing into Osipovas case in Smolensk, which was scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26. On that date, however, the court refused to conduct an expert analysis of the fingerprints found on the bag of heroin as Osipova had asked, and prolonged her pretrial detention for another three months. Osipova, who has diabetes, has been repeatedly denied requests to see her daughter.

Prisoners Union founder Gromov, himself a former prisoner, came up with the idea after watching a TV documentary about the 1979 TV miniseries The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (The Age of Mercy) starring Vladimir Vysotsky, the iconic rebellious Soviet singer-songwriter and actor.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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