What happened to Spring? We just blinked, and it was gone. As the hazy days of summer descend on us, our thoughts turn to … Shakespeare. To Fairies and Elfs cavorting in the verdant forests. And also to High Politics, because that also seems to happen a lot in early summer. And yes, I am continuing with the “Hamlet of the Arbat” story, because there are new developments.
The Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has done a terrific job following this story, when most other outlets just want to milk whatever propaganda value from an incident of urban theater. I have two pieces from the Komsomolka that I want to cover, this one and this one. Both pieces were brought to my attention by “Moscow Exile”, a frequent collaborator on Mark Chapman’s “Kremlin Stooge” blog. The key question which Russophiles (and Putin supporters) demand to know: Was this incident on the Arbat a staged provocation against the Moscow police? Staged, in other words, by The Usual Suspects, “anti-regime” elements, Oppositionists, kreakles, etc., in the same way as, for example, Pussy Riot?
Or was this just something that happened, as the Russians say, “spontaneously”, with no political or conspiratorial implications?
So here is the plan: Today I will cover the one and only (that I know of) evidence for the conspiracy version, namely “The mystery of the two dates“, May 25 vs May 26.
Either tomorrow or Sunday, I will interrupt my own series of posts with an Interlude from my collaborator Lyttenburgh. Who has penned another quite brilliant essay, this time on the relationship between Summer and High Politics, as in Deep State. In this case, a conspiracy involving the English monarchy, and even Shakespeare himself! [Stay tuned because it’s all inter-connected!]
After Lyt’s Interlude, I will continue with the Oskar Skavronski story, but here translating/summarizing the second KP story. In which reporters, instead of speculating about people they never met, actually went inside their home and met them and talked to them – gasp! Like real reporters are supposed to do.
But before we tag along to meet the Skavronski family in their swanky Moscow flat, let us first get this “conspiracy” business out of the way.
May 25 – A Smoking Gun?
This first KP piece was published on May 30. The reporters are: Alexander Boiko, Oksana Vakulina, and Dina Karpitskaya. Recall the basic incident: On Friday, May 26, 9-year-old Oskar Skavronski [it’s okay to give out the child’s name, everybody else already did] was detained by Moscow patrol police on a street corner in the Arbat. The boy was reciting “Hamlet” with an open money-bag in front of him. In Russia, “begging” on a street corner is a crime. Adults who send children out to do this can be charged with a serious offense. Patrol officers took the (screaming and struggling) kid down to the station to get everything sorted out. In the process, they had to deal with a screaming woman who attempted to interfere in the detention. She turned out to be the boy’s stepmother, although she did not so identify herself to the cops. I already translated the interview with a Moscow patrol officer who commented on what his colleagues did right and what they did wrong in the course of this process. I won’t bother going over all of that “police procedural” again. Bottom line: The cops acted on the information that they had at the time, and did not appear to have violated any of their own rules and policies.
Although… I will say this: In all “civilized” societies, police have a tendency to class bias. My own first impression, when I first read of this case, and I stated my opinion at the time: “This is a financially struggling family, who sent their kid out to scrounge for money.” It turns out: That was a WRONG ASSUMPTION. The family is actually fairly well off, as the second KP article shows. Now, a key question here is: Would the cops have acted as they did, would they have grabbed the boy by the collar, had they known at the time that they were not dealing with a penniless street urchin? I myself do not know the answer to that question.
Anyhow, once the cops had the boy down to the station, they phoned his papa, Elias (=Ilya) Skavronski. Every parent can relate, this is a terrible moment when the police call your home and say, “Come get your kid.” It takes a while to sort these things out, and it behooves a parent to hire an attorney pronto. Being a smart dad, Elias got on the horn and hired somebody who was recommended to him, name of Anastasia Samorukova. I am not 100% sure this is the same one, but I think this is her.
So far, so good. But here’s the kicker: Because this incident went viral, and the police found themselves under a microscope, they felt it necessary to publish all the details of the case. And the internet lit up with righteous anger when Moscow Police HQ published the order by which Skavronski hired the attorney; and the order is dated May 25, in other words, a full day before the Arbat detention! If you click on the link to the KP article, you can see the photocopy of the handwritten order of attorney. The number “26” appears to be overwritten by the number “25”.
The obvious conclusion, according to the conspiracy theorists: Dad (being some type of Navalnyite) predicted that his son was to be detained the following day, therefore he made sure to proactively hire an attorney. He and his live-in girl planned this whole incident in advance, to discredit the police and the Putin regime!
KP radio interviewed on-air the attorney herself, Samorukova, and asked her this pointed question. Was she hired in advance of the incident itself?
Samorukova: It never happened that way. Before that Friday, May 26, 2018 [sic] I never knew that such a fellow, Elias Skavronski, even existed. I have the exact time fixed: On 26 May, at 22:18 hours [yalensis: for American readers, that would be 10:18 PM] my telephone rang, with a number from an unknown caller. It turned out to be Elias. [yalensis: Elias was already at the police station where his son was being questioned.] He said that he had been given my number as an attorney who lives close by the “Arbat” station and who works with juveniles. He asked me to work on his case, and I agreed. It took me around half an hour to get down to the Arbat station. The whole way I was consulting with him over my cellphone. So, let’s say somewhere around 22:40 – 22:48 I met Elias in person. I signed the order in his presence. The consent form, in which he consented to my participation as his attorney, he also dated May 26.
KP: But have you seen that document, which is dated May 25?
Samorukova: Yes, I have seen it. If you magnify it, you can see that some corrections were made. The order consists of two parts: the heading, and then the order itself. The heading clearly says 26 May. No, I am not implying that the police forged anything. You have to understand that my Friday was really crazy. There were some very serious cases I was dealing with, and then a very long consultation with some juveniles, and I hadn’t been planning on going out anywhere the night from the 26th to the 27th. I was planning to spend my evening in a completely different way, like normal people do, even, excuse me, attorneys! For this reason, I cannot exclude the possibility that I simply wrote it down wrong. Especially since I had to fill out the form right on the spot, and very quickly, and everything was in a bustle around me. It’s possible that this was simply a mechanical typo [on my part].
KP: What do you say to those who claim that you, as an attorney, were hired in advance, in order to carry out a planned provocation against the police?
Samorukova: That’s insane nonsense, that they would hire an attorney to discredit the police. [yalensis: Except that it has happened in the past…] I don’t even know how to respond to that. Lawyers don’t work like that. We don’t do that. [yalensis: Well, there are some who do…] And you may have noticed that my name does not appear much in the press. I don’t give out my opinions and I try to remain nondescript.
KP: One more question. The police are saying now that they apologized for their roughness, and that they apologized in front of the boy, Oskar. But the boy’s dad says that they apologized to him.
Samorukova: I can absolutely testify that in the presence of 10 people — and I can name each and everyone of them — the police did not apologize to the boy, as they are now saying they did (by that time, around 4:00 in the morning, the boy was already sleeping peacefully at home in his own bed). They apologized to the father of the child. And I have to say that this gladdened me greatly, because this was the right thing to do. Oskar’s papa said that he accepted their apology.