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‘Putin’s Children’ – Life, Crime, Terror on a Edge of Russia

The driver’s voice teeters between basin and aggression.

“What kinduva life do yoo call this?!” he shouts. “Weerrall peepul … peeeeepul, for sheeettin sake! … Fook, Ruussia, yoo make me wish to cry!”

We curve from side to side of the snow-covered track. Outside, the mercury pushes twenty under, and the black disguise of Siberian night is falling. “Thiziz uh crrrriminal … village” the driver says. “We had ah shoooting here … pulice n’everything”. Turning toward me, he creates a frustrated gesture, before opening his toothless mouth and releasing a putrid detonate of ethanol breath.

The car jolts and the motorist earnings his courtesy to the road. He continues his story: “The prisssnurs, they had guys in the school, holding taxation from the kids, for fooks sake!…  ‘magine?! Poor wons had to give 100 rubles, the middle wons, 200, and the abounding wons, it’s fooking 250 rubles, fook me!”

The harsh Zabaikalsky region, some 4,000 miles from Moscow, is not, typically, a good news factory; locals do not leave their front doors in the morning awaiting miracles. But dual flashes of anarchy progressing this month have led some to wonder if the bad is about to get badder, and if the dark days of Siberia’s scattered 1990s are returning.

The first episode, here in Novopavlovka, saw relatives return to mob law opposite a group of young criminals embedded in the internal school. The second, in nearby Khilok, saw institutionalized teenagers conflict a police hire with stones and metal weapons. Separated by just a few days, the episodes were amply unnerving for Moscow to send inquisitive teams to the region.

According to excitable internal media, the root of the problems was a movement pulling youngsters into the rapist underground. This transformation has a name — AUE — hire for “Arestantsky. Uklad. Edin,” or “Prison. Order. Universal.”

Ground Zero

Chita, the administrative collateral of Zabaikalsky, is, on first appearances, pleasing enough. A smattering of historical buildings and bustling executive streets set it detached from other Russian provincial capitals. But one usually has to travel to Chita’s some-more insalubrious and jobless outskirts, to see a different design altogether.

“The default mode on these streets is crime,” says my guide, Andrei Kulikov, 37, a former convict. “Chita is built on prisons, and no one is ever some-more than a phone call or family member divided from the underground.”

We stop by School 17, an unhappy, drug-infested cluster of wooden huts on the corner of existence. School 17 has no travel lighting, and utility reserve are basic, yet the neighborhood is a reasonable initial pier for those recently expelled from any one of the region’s 10 prisons.

It is in places like this, says Andrei, that former inmates bond with penetrating teenage runners. The criminals call them the ragged ones, and they assistance with anything from drug deliveries to organizing “grev” — reserve of tea, cigarettes and cash for serving prisoners.

“This isn’t the place to be walking around at night, mind,” says Kulikov. “There are weapons on the street — and no one respects the understandings no more.”

Towns on the Edge

The “Understandings”

In criminal circles, the “understandings,” or Russian jail code, are laws above laws. They dissuade all team-work with the police, settle an obligation to collect grev, and map out an alternative complement of order and justice.

According to another former convict, Sergei Chugunov, the criminals’ courts are the “fairest in all Russia.” If someone has been foul imprisoned, he says, rapist authorities will “always” find out the truth around their networks outside. Chugunov himself spent 4 years portion alongside Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Chita’s many famous inmate, in Krasnokamensk.

Keen to hit home the “morality” of Chita’s underworld, Sergei invites me to one of its some-more scandalous hangouts. The bar is named after Yermak Timofeyevich, the Cossack who cowed Siberia in a showering of blood. “It doesn’t matter who we are, this place will always acquire you,” says Sergei. “Just don’t leave your valuables in the cloakroom.”

The bar’s tone intrigue is fecal brown, interrupted usually by a counterpart round and fairy lights. From time to time, the DJ, a stocky masculine in his late forties, creates a weird criticism few seem to register, yet that adds to the illusory atmosphere. “Who likes to walk around their unit naked?” he asks.

A bottle of vodka later, and news breaks that a lynx has run into town. Another half bottle, and the DJ earnings to the microphone. With a wink to Sergei, he announces the presence of an “English guest,” and dedicates a chanson, a traditional strain from the rapist underworld, to the moment.

By the time the first hymn of “District Prosecutor” is over, the room has reached otherworldly highs; everybody is dancing violently, screaming with delight:

“For we I’m no one, and for me you’re no one”

“I separate at the law, we send me to prison!”

In a city so apparently profound with jail culture, we ask Sergei about the process of recruiting kids to the AUE cause. He denies youngsters are actively recruited: “It is opposite the code; we can’t recruit, yet we can’t pull divided either.” Besides, he argues, the “whole of Chita is AUE” — “it’s a mentality.”

A rough travel consult of two dozen Chita schoolchildren suggested roughly all knew about AUE, about the understandings and grev. A few of them certified to contributing for grev, and some pronounced they knew someone who did. One pronounced a book “How to become a Thief” was doing the rounds at school.

The older children turn tight-lipped when asked about AUE — refusing to answer serve questions.

Several hundred Chita teenagers are subscribed to AUE groups on Russia’s many renouned amicable network VKontakte. When contacted, the majority offering concise responses of the sort: “Go f*ck yourself,” “agent!,” “AUE! Freedom to thieves” and “AUE! F*ck off.” One 17-year-old AUE follower, Dmitry F., warned opposite unwelcome interfering. No one would pronounce to me, he said: “That’s the deal. We didn’t start this, yet we’ll finish it. Take my advice, you’ll be improved off that way.”

A Village at War

If Chita’s AUE teenagers wish to stay in the shadows, the other side, understandably, are even keener to preserve anonymity.

“I wish we to write all down, yet we contingency guarantee to change my name,” says Lyudmila, one of Novopavlovka’s 4,000 residents. “You can’t suppose what we’ve come to. We’re at war, terrorized by these kids, by their parents.”

It has been 3 weeks given Novopavlovka residents saw their encampment fire to the tip of national news. It all started when a group of teenagers, operative underneath a local rapist boss, began extorting grev payments in the internal delegate school. Payments were set between 100 and 250 rubles per month per child. Those who couldn’t compensate accrued debts.

The children were sworn to secrecy, yet relatives eventually found out. The turning indicate came around the new year, when one gladdened 13-year-old child was nude of his coat, on a day when the temperature outward was reduction 40 degrees Celsius. One of the boy’s classmates motionless to raise the alarm, and told his father, Ivan, what was going on.

The extortioners were obvious to police, yet had dodged charge since of their age. Over the years, they had grown a sense of invincibility, and things looked to be going the same proceed again.

Without using H2O or executive heating, life in the Siberian forest can be tough. Some fear it is about to get even tougher.

At a finish of January, however, a group of parents led by Ivan took matters into their possess hands.

The results of their movement left several of the squad with injuries, yet Ivan says reports of him inflicting “serious injuries” on the boys are exaggerated. “It’s pronounced that we crippled a 17-year-old … The maximum we did was mangle a nose or two.” Ivan says the physical showdown was instituted by the boys themselves, when they challenged his son to a fight.

The AUE boys, however, went to the troops to file a complaint, and now the vigilante relatives are anxiously watchful to hear either they will be prosecuted themselves.

According to Lyudmila, about 40 percent of the encampment youngsters are AUE: “The usually thing the encampment gave them is hopelessness, yet the criminals done them feel wanted. Children clarity when they aren’t wanted.”

Putin’s Children

The harshness of Siberian life hits home when we make the proceed to the adjacent town, Khilok (population 10,000). Set in beautiful snow-covered hills and conifer forests, Khilok could be in Switzerland, were it not for everything else. Most locals live in damp, revengeful wooden huts, though heating or water. Pensioners and children circle H2O cans along the streets.

“We know the shitty vital yet we’re volatile and we’ve got used to life’s small hardships,” says Yury Lukyanov, 62, a railway workman now on his pension. “It’s the crime we can’t cope with.”

Like the majority of residents, Yury says he is weakened by the boys from the state youthful correctional propagandize on the northern corner of town. He says he is frightened to go out at night, and complains of unrelenting robberies. “If we leave the house unattended, they’ll come around to steal something,” says Yury. “They watch and gather comprehension for more critical criminals too.”

Yury says locals are murderous the youngsters seem to live both above the law, and better than the rest of the town: “They get uninformed fruit and vegetables, some-more than the kids could dream about. And yet 17 of them conduct off to trash the police station!”

“These kids are untouchable” he says. “You can’t put them in prison and you can’t detain them. Because they’re stable by the state. Because they’re Putin’s children.”

Syria? No Problem!

After negotiations by a fence, we accommodate with 4 of “Putin’s children” — Sasha, Seryoga, Ilya and Lyokha — all of them “heroes” of the troops hire rampage.

So were they dauntless or usually dumb? “Brave,” they contend in chorus, laughing. “The pigs started it anyway,” says Lyokha. “They arrested the mate, and that’s not on.” Their friend’s usually crime was being dipsomaniac at school, they say.

The boys acknowledge to being captivated by the intrigue of prison culture — the tattoos and the understandings. But when asked about AUE, they demeanour to the belligerent and claim ignorance.

As for the future, good that is a choice between crime and the army. “It’s not a bad career in the army right now,” says Lyokha. “Yeah, I’d have no problems going to Syria,” agrees Seryoga.

AUE and other rapist themed graffiti can be found all over the Zabaikalsky region

We contend the goodbyes and head for the internal restaurant. The menu is limited: boiled sausage, buckwheat, chocolate, vodka and cognac. “Soup competence be on later,” says the waitress. We opt for the cognac.

“You’re here about the boys, aren’t you?” says a woman, a rare voice in a city that doesn’t speak. She moves closer to our table. “I’m a dermatologist, we used to work at the propagandize and I can tell we they are out of control. Every year, we’d get several cases of syphilis. In 13 year olds!”

The woman drops to a whisper. “You ask anyone — they’re shocked of them boys. They usually know how to rob. They’ve started hidden sticks and garden equipment. God usually knows what they’re planning.”

The last stop of the dusk is the police station, where the story began. When we arrive, 7 officers are sitting behind the metal griddle in various states of blankness. Some are reading magazines, some celebration tea. Others are stuffing out crossword puzzles.

I hit on the window, and ask if we can get a comment. The receiving officer looks at me, afterwards at his colleagues.

“There’s no one who can speak to you here,” he says.

A Message to Nowhere

Pursuit of an central explanation turns into a impotent ring-a-roses around the regional offices of official supervision bodies.

Eventually, the region’s emissary administrator agrees to meet. A doctor by profession, Sergei Chaban was happy to see me, he said, supposing we was “objective in my reporting.”

The local authorities accepted the problem: “We’re not ostriches burying the heads in the sand — it’s there, we don’t repudiate it exists, we see the graffiti around.” But, he says, the media reports of a widespread AUE complement were exaggerated. “There are particular episodes of criminals recruiting youngsters to the means … yet overall, youthful crime is on the proceed down … down by 20 percent over the last dual years.”

For Chaban, one resolution would be to re-militarize the region. Until recently, Chita was the headquarters of the Siberian Military District, yet a reorganization in 2010 saw resources pierce to the Far East Khabarovsk region, withdrawal the region’s teenagers brief on legitimate masculine purpose models.

The deputy administrator says the government is looking to open new military, nationalistic and sporting programs in the region. “We have usually non-stop a new chosen Suvorov troops training academy,” he says. “We wish boys can now start articulate to military men, not criminals.”

Roman Sukachyov, conduct of the region’s Human Rights Center, is reduction assured about the governmental approach. He says rebellious a problem like AUE requires “dealing with an entire philosophy” that permeates central life. “It’s formidable to reduce the influence of criminal beliefs when the [state-sponsored] Channel 2 put on a rapist chanson special on New Year’s Eve,” he says.

The regional supervision also indispensable to “get real” about the extent internal troops chiefs were auxiliary with criminals. To demonstrate his point, Sukachyov plays me a video of a corner celebration event between a head of the internal rapist troops and a rapist underboss. “The whole complement is intertwined: Police determine manners with crime bosses, and there is small internal populations can do about it,” he says.

Some locals seem to have given adult on the energy of government. The Novopavlovka parents, for example, contend they have motionless to take their problem to “higher instances.” “The criminals’ possess manners contend that we aren’t ostensible to involve the police,” says Ivan. “So we’ve motionless to make the possess tie a little serve adult their sequence of command.”

“The usually proceed the encampment can start sleeping soundly is if the criminal authorities put people behind in their place.”

Some identities and identifying facilities have been changed. 

Contact the author at o.carroll@imedia.ru

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/560593.html

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