The former head of the department of internal economic security of YUKOS Aleksey Pichugin, who on July 2 was brought to pre-trial detention center «Lefortovo» (although until July 6, human rights activists and lawyers were told that he is not there), told to the member of the PMC and journalist of Open Russia, Zoya Svetova about his life in the penal colony and how he was denied in clemency.
He has very short hair — three millimeters, grey crew cut. A thin man in a blue prisoner robe, his hands are behind his back, handcuffed, walking on the red carpet in the hall of the Lefortovo prison, accompanied by two staff members in the spotty form; one of them in his hands holds black rubber truncheon.
«This is called a ’double convoy’’’ — in a portentous manner prison officer answered to my question, what was happening and why the guard was having a truncheon. «This is the convoy of prisoners with life term. And you can talk to him only through the bars. We will not let you inside the cell: anything can happen, he has nothing to lose, he is on LI (life imprisonment — Open Russia.), you cannot known what can come into his head, it’s all for your own safety», — he continues.
«And why? — I am surprised. — When we visited Nikita Tikhonov, also sentenced to life, we came into his cell. Do you think that Pichugin is more dangerous than Tikhonov?»
We are walking to the cell №13. Together with us — two guards, DACDF (duty assistant chief of the detention facility), the deputy chief of the detention center, the head of educational work — only five employees. And we — the two members of the PMC: Lyudmila Alpern and me. Before we let pass the camera, the guards searched Alexey Pichugin, although literally a second before that, when he returned from walk to his cell, he had been already searched. They explain: this is the order. We come in, introduce ourselves. Big cell, bed, table, radio that was turned on, we can’t see any other things. This is quarantine cell — no TV, no fridge, there are no books or notebooks.
Alexey smiles. I remember that ten years ago I saw him in the court, then I corresponded with him, and his letters always impressed me by its brevity and restraint. When in those letters I was asking specific questions, he, as a rule, did not answer to them. I thought he was a very private person, or maybe does not want to «open» because of the circumstances.
But in the quarantine cell №13, surrounded by five employees who were hanging upon his lips, Alexey willingly responded to my questions.
— You’ve already served time in the «Lefortovo». Has something changed since then?
— I was held there from 19th of June 2003 till August 2004. Then it was a detention facility of FSB. Then I served time with Igor Sutyagin. And now, according to the security, I will be in solitary cell.
-Was a prisoner transporting long?
— We went by train: from Sol-Iletsk, where was my detention facility, spent two days in the Orenburg prison, then in Samara prison and from there to Moscow.
— With whom do you serve time in penal establishment?
— My cellmate — the workman from prosecutor’s office.
— Are you working in detention facility?
— No, because of health reasons I was discharged from work.
— It is your fourteenth year in prison. According to the law, after 10 years, you may transfer to lighter conditions of detention, and then you have a right for two long-term visits from family members. Is it right?
— I had a sanction, so I wasn’t transfered.
— Why didn’t you appeal against the sanction?
— I wasn’t appealing. In any case, the sanction is withdrawn in a year. (Journalist Vera Vasilieva, which corresponded with Pichugin, told the Open Russia, that recently Alexey had had two sanctions, for «making the bed in a wrong way» and «did not wiping the dust» — Open Russia.).
— In the detention facilities life sentenced should move in a pose called «ku»: bent down, hands are up behind their backs, with twisted hands, eyes are closed with open mouth. It is said that this pose in some prisons is abolished – it is believed that it humiliates prisoners. And what is the situation here?
— They have not abolished it. This pose is used when a prisoner comes out of the cell. And I understand why it is need: for safety reasons. In this facility there are people that I can hardly call humans: sometimes on their conscience there is blood of so many children, you learn about this, when you read their stories. There are also mentally ill people; I sometimes wonder how the employees are bothered with them, helping them
— So you want to say your piteousness is not helping you in this case? You’re — very religious, right?
— Yes, sometimes I feel the lack of it.
— We heard that your petition for clemency was denied. How it happened?
— On September 10, 2015 our center visited the members of HRC — Mikhail Fedotov and Andrei Babushkin. There were a lot of people, a group of human rights defenders. Andrei Babushkin said that he was ready to shake my hand. So, they advised me to apply for a clemency and said that they will support it. But I wrote the petition only after a meeting with my lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov, who said the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers advised me to write it (European Court of Human Rights had decided that in relation to Pichugin violated his right to a fair trial and the sentence in his case should be abolished but Russian Supreme court has ignored the decision of the Council, and then the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers decided that if President Putin will mercy Pichugin, then the problem of an unfair trial will be solved, and therefore Pichugin need to apply for clemency — Open Russia).
— You filed the petition and got rejection?
— It turned out that my petition didn’t get around to the President. Anyway, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said so. I just got the rejection without any explanation, signed by the Governor of the Orenburg region.
— Were you upset?
— I didn’t hold out much hope for that. I know what case I have. And the whole world knows it, and you know it.
— But miracles happen, and the President sometimes has mercy on different people.
— I’m an optimist. I am sure that the situation in my case will change.
— Have you kept some unpleasant memories of the detention center «Lefortovo»?
— You mean the 14 November 2003?
— Yes. (On that day, as Pichugin’s lawyers told later, he was taken to the office for questioning, where the allegedly FSB agents injected Alexey with an unknown substance, and then «interrogated» him, being in a trance, for six hours. Pichugin’s condition after «questioning» confirmed under oath in the application to the ECHR, Igor Sutyagin, who was sitting with him in the same cell. — Open Russia).
— All of this has faded from memory. Moreover, because it didn’t happen in «Lefortovo», but in another building, CIA FSB (adjacent building, connected to the housing of detention center «Lefortovo.» — Open Russia).
— Have you ordered the book from the library?
— No, I didn’t have time. I still sleep off.
— Have someone said you, why you were transferred from detention facility?
— No. They didn’t say anything about it, but I think I’m here not for a long time. I wrote a motion to have a visit from my mother. The law provide me with this meeting. And the chief of the detention center said that, most likely, they will allow me to have a visit.
— Many people support you and worry about you.
— Thank you. Say hello to everyone who supports me.
Zoya Svetova, «Open Russia»