Evgeny Zateev was arrested after demonstrating against Russia’s war on Ukraine. Now he faces up to ten years in prison. Evgeny is one of several members of the Vesna organization who have suffered legal problems.
”When the war came, I could no longer remain silent. It is my duty to protest,” he says.
IT technician Evgeny Zateev from St Petersburg is 21 years old. When the war started, he couldn’t keep quiet any longer so he joined the youth organization Vesna and took part in demonstrations against the Russian war on Ukraine. He faces the risk of being sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a member of an organization that the Russian state has declared extremist. According to the Russian state, Vesna ”violates the rights and the authority of individuals”.
Despite knowing about the risks involved, Evgeny is not worried about being featured in a news article. He volunteers because, as he says, we in Europe need to know what is happening in Russia.
”On 7 May this year, I was arrested after participating in a demonstration organized by Vesna. There was about one hundred of us protesting,” says Evgeny.
After the demonstration, the police searched his home for evidence. Evgeny was then taken by a group of police officers to Moscow, where he was informed that he was accused of protesting and of being a member of an extremist organization. This is a new law designed to ban all Russian organizations that dare to promote human rights and democracy or of criticizing the regime in any way.
“According to the police and the prosecutors, Vesna is interfering with the rights of some people just by protesting, Evgeny continues.
How did you become politically active?
– When I first became interested in politics, I supported Putin. For a while I even identified myself as a communist. But, after seeing Navalny’s films about corruption in our country, I realised that this system is completely unfair. My grandmother has worked for 40 years and has a pension of a measly 13,000 Rubles (USD 170). This is not right!
– When the war came, I could no longer remain silent, so I joined Vesna. It is my duty as a citizen of Russia.
Evgeny now faces two years in prison on the first charge. But he also risks a ten-year sentence if the prosecutor chooses to charge him with the more serious offences that he is also accused of.
What can we in Europe do to support you?
“You must stop playing the game of Putin and his regime. It is time to create an anti-Putin coalition and implement further sanctions against Putin and his ‘friends’. Huge numbers of bribe takers still have access to their European bank accounts. Then there are large sums of money flowing from Europe to Russia, for example to control demonstrations and crowds with batons and tear gas.”
At the same time, Evgeny urges us to follow Vesna’s activities, but also support all those involved in the opposition to the Putin regime:
”You have to give us who are against the regime opportunities to talk about what is happening. That is all I need now, for European countries to join us in the fight against Putin, a fight we have been waging for a long time.”
The line Evgeny draws for his own involvement is any form of military action to overthrow Putin’s regime. He believes in non-violent protests:
“War cannot be used as a means to fight against this dictatorship.”
How do your loved ones feel about your activism?
“Even though my grandmother and I have different views on the regime, it is perfectly clear to her what has happened now during this devastation. All my relatives understand and support me in what I do. They share my values. No one has abandoned me because of my activism against the regime.”
Evgeny is one of several members of the youth organization Vesna that Global Bar Magazine have interviewed and will continue to follow.
Russian authorities have banned Vesna, declaring it an “extremist organization” that ”threatens Russian authorities and authorities”. Despite being banned, many young people continue to fight the regime through Telegram, Twitter and other social media channels. There are activists still living in Russia. All those who are featured in our publications are aware of the risks of going public but still want to share what happened to them.
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