Aidar Gubaidulin: “I Have Always Been a Patriot”

Aidar Gubaidulin: “I Have Always Been a Patriot”
The Moscow case of 2019 is often compared to the Bolotnaya Square case of 2012 -- it is easy to draw a parallel between them. But according to human rights activists, the Moscow case has been really defies belief.

On May 6, 2012, there were some incidents on Bolotnaya Square that might be referred to as riots. However, according to a number of observers, it was not the protesters who caused them but the Moscow police: people had to stand up to riot police officers not because of malicious intents, but because of hopelessness. They were huddled together and were forced to put up resistance not to be crushed.

At the Moscow action of July 27, 2019, there were no mass riots at all. Although the march for fair elections to the Moscow City Duma had not been authorized by the city administration, it was exceptionally peaceful. Its participants did not even use their legal right of self-defense against the officers, who kept brandishing their batons. However, the authorities announced that "mass riots" had taken place in Moscow, and the prosecutor's office initiated criminal proceedings against their participants immediately.

Since it was difficult to detect elements of an offense in the participants’ actions, the investigation cited criminal hand-waving gestures, thrown paper cups and empty plastic bottles, tipped over trash bin and even a smartphone in the hands of a person standing near the subway.

Then the social networks came into play. The last defendants in the Moscow case were detained and placed in a pre-trial detention center for criticizing the judges who had sentenced the first detainees to real prison time.

At the moment, seven people have already been sentenced to 1-5 years for the Moscow case: Danil Beglets for two years, Kirill Zhukov for three years, Evgeny Kovalenko for three and a half years, Konstantin Kotov for four years, Ivan Podkopaev for two years, Vladislav Sinitsa for five years, Pavel Ustinov for one year suspended. Six cases were dismissed (S. Abanichev, V. Barabanov, V. Kostenok, D. Vasiliev, D. Konon and A. Minyailo). There are fifteen people under investigation, and ten of them are kept in custody. They are Nikita Chirtsov, Eduard Malyshevsky, Samaraddin Razhabov, Andrei Barshay, Egor Lesnykh, Maxim Martintsov, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Pavel Novikov, Aleksei Vereshov and Yevgeni Yerzunov. Three of them are under house arrest: Egor Zhukov, Sergei Fomin and Aleksandr Mylnikov; and one -- Sergei Polovets – is on his own recognizance not to leave town. Aidar Gubaidulin, the last one, has been placed on an international wanted list.

Aidar Gubaidulin is a typical defendant in this case. In a peaceful protest on July 27, at the peak of the protest, he threw an empty half-liter plastic bottle towards the security forces severely beating other participants but the bottle didn’t reach the goal. On the night of August 8-9, the Investigative Committee came with a warrant to Aidar’s home, and on August 9, the court sent him to the pre-trial detention center as a participant in the mass riots (Article 212 of the Russian Criminal code). On August, 31, the charge was reclassified as “attempted violence against a representative of the authorities.” (Articles 30 and 318 of the Russian Criminal code). If charged under Article 212, Gubaidulin faced to eight years of prison time under Article 212, the new charge implied “only” five years. Aidar spent his 26th birthday in a pre-trial detention center.

On September 18, Moscow City’s Meshchansky District Court released Aidar from custody on his own recognizance and gave his case back to the prosecutor's office, pointing out that the charge was not corresponding to the actual circumstances.

In October, the investigation into Aidar Gubaidulin was resumed with a new charge – “the threat of violence against a representative of power.” (part 1 of Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code) because during the action on July 27 Aidar had thrown an empty plastic bottle at a policeman but for reasons beyond his control the bottle had not hit him. He thus “abandoned the criminal intention unfinished.” He has been summoned to the Investigative Committee three times in connection the resumed case.

“This decision was not easy for me, but the events of recent days left me with no choice,” Aidar tweeted in Facebook on October, 17. “I left the country and will not return in the coming years. I love all of you, I love Moscow and Russia, and anyone who knows me will say that I have always been a patriot.”

Today, Aidar is living in Vilnius. In Russia, he has been placed on an international wanted list and an arrest warrant has been issued for him in absentia.

The correspondent of the newspaper asked Aidar Gubaidulin to tell about himself and his “case.”

- Aidar, did you ever have interest in politics before last summer's events? Did you participate in any actions? What were your political views?

- A long time ago, at school, I had quite conservative views, which now I am ashamed of. As time passed, I read a lot, tried to follow all the events and gradually came to the liberal views and realization that human rights and freedoms are of the highest value.

I have never been an activist or a member of any party or organization. First time I came to a rally was in March 2017 after Alexei Navalny's film He Is not Dimon to You (Russian documentary film about PM Dmitry Medvedev's corruption).

- Tell us a little bit more about yourself: what kind of family do you have and what are your interests (other than politics)? What was your job? Your personal life? How did you imagine your life and your prospects? What were your plans for the future before last summer?

- I was born and raised in Ufa (the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan). After finishing school I got to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and moved to the town of Dolgoprudny in the Moscow region.

I have an ordinary family: my mother works as an engineer at a plant, and my father worked as a construction supervisor all his life. I have an elder brother (he is 15 minutes older than me). We had studied together from the first to the senior grades.

After the junior year I got a part-time job as a programmer and started to combine work and study. I worked for NetCracker for three and a half years, then for Sberbank Technologies. My team created the infrastructure for launching the machine learning models.

I have been interested in martial arts all my life. As a child I went in for taekwondo, during the sophomore year – for boxing, and four years ago I explored kudo and even participated in several competitions.

In my spare time I used to walk around, read, surf the Internet and meet with my friends -- in general, had an ordinary life.

I have dated one girl for a long time, but we decided to go separate ways, and I have been single since then.

My plans for the future were pretty clear: to pay down my mortgage, to build a career, to travel and to have a family and children. I have never planned to leave Russia.

- Is it possible to say that your life in 2019 was sharply divided into "before" and "after"? Have you changed internally?

- Yes, of course. I wouldn't say that I have changed internally. My views remain the same. I have only gained new experience and have got to know people better. But life has changed. First of all, now I know what human rights are and I want to help people. Almost immediately after my release, I joined the group Arrestants 212, that helps the defendants in the Moscow case and their families. Secondly, I was forced to leave Russia and start with a clean slate.

- Was it scary to run away to “nowhere”? What was the most difficult thing on a moral level before and right after leaving Russia?

- When you have a choice to stay and get into prison for two or three years or to leave and live in the freedom, it is quite easy to make a decision. In Russia, I had almost nothing: I regularly called my family but met them personally just a couple of times a year. I didn't have my own family, and my profession and knowledge of English allowed me to find a job anywhere in the world.

However, I didn't want to leave Russia anyway, though I knew it was necessary. I had spent my whole life there – it is impossible just to leave and forget it, you will always miss it. I love Moscow, it's a wonderful city. All my relatives and friends live in Russia. After all, I have a flat there for which I had saved up for several years.

I miss it all, and I think that this feeling will only grow with time.

- How have your nearest and dearest ones experienced what has happened to you?

- They were worried about my safety and their future. Especially after all searches and interrogations. Today, they are only worried that it is not possible for me to come and live in my home country.

- What is your current situation? How do you imagine your future? Are you making any new plans?

- Now I am in the process of getting political asylum. I am going to live in Vilnius for the next couple of years. I am not planning ahead -- maybe I will stay here, maybe I will go to a bigger city.

I am going to continue programming and to help political prisoners and to be engaged in some human rights activities in my spare time. Joining any political party is outside of my plans, I prefer to stay independent.

- Why did you choose Lithuania?

 - I had several options but Lithuania is the most reliable and simple one. People are not extradited from here, and it is easy to get asylum in obviously political cases.

- You have taken part in the last forum of Free Russia. What were your impressions? Were you the hero of the day?

- It was the first time I participated in such an event, so everything was interesting for me. I wouldn't say that my presentation was outstanding. Rather, my knowledge and ability to speak were obviously not enough for public speaking.

- Right after your release from the pre-trial detention center, you started to actively take part in the actions for the release of other Moscow case defendants and became a member of the Arrestees 212 team. Are you going to continue to take an active part in it? Or have you changed your plans after the Free Russia Forum?

- Yes, I am going to continue. At present I am creating a site for Arrestees 212. Sometimes I write texts and future I am planning to promote its Instagram in the short term.

- Do you have any regrets?

- I wish I hadn't thrown that bottle. I am comfortable with all the consequences, but my family has had a hard time.

- What inspires you and gives you hope?

- I hope that Russia will be free and that our wonderful people will be able to have a decent life in a free country.