A Lengthy Battle
with the FSB

Arkhangelsk PARNAS leader Yury Shcherbachev has been in conflict with local security forces for many years
Team 29 special project "Enforcement of Loyalty"
Yury Shcherbachev, from Severodvinsk, has been head of the PARNAS party’s regional branch in Arkhangelsk since 2002. He is an active participant in protests, pickets and other demonstrations.
He has been searched several times by security forces over the past six years and has sued security officers for seizing his father’s military awards. In 2020 he was prosecuted for insulting the authorities due to a post on social media about a child’s detainment in a shopping centre.
False reports of
a terrorist attack
Shcherbachev's unique relationship with security forces began in the 1990s. He was an entrepreneur and ended up serving time in prison over unpaid taxes. 

Upon his release in 2001, he found that the funds seized as part of the case against him had not been transferred- he was simply imprisoned. Meanwhile, the police turned a blind eye to the tax arrears. 

At the same time, a story about Shcherbachev appeared in the regional ‘Izvestia’ newspaper. a letter allegedly bearing Shcherbachev’s signature was sent to the prosecutor's office, threatening a terrorist attack. The police did not do anything about the letter. But in 2014, ahead of the Sochi Olympics, the story resurfaced.
- “The FSB claimed that in 2014 I sent a photocopy of this article about the bombing to the same regional prosecutor's office, it was considered a false report of a terrorist act,” says Shcherbachev.
Security forces searched Shcherbachev’s safe, hoping to find "funds for planning and committing a terrorist attack." Instead, they found military badges, medals, a decorative naval dagger and a combat knife which Shcherbachev had inherited from his father, a naval officer and veteran of the Second World War who died in 1964. When the supporting documents for the badges and medals were found, these items were given back. However, the dagger and knife, for which there were no such documents, were taken away. 

The search warrant was issued by Mikhail Averin, the chairman of the regional court. He said the security forces’ actions were a "preventive anti-terrorist operation" in light of the upcoming Olympics. Shcherbachev believes that this should never have taken place, as the FSB had presented the court with a fake letter. 

Two years later, the praesidium of the same court declared the search to have been illegal, and the head of the local  FSB was ordered to "remedy and identified legal violations." 

- “Two years later, after the ruling had been overturned, I demanded a case be opened for forgery (of the letter that led to the search). If this letter was fake, someone sent it. Someone forged my signature, and we need to conduct an investigation to find out who. But, naturally, nothing happened. There was no expert examination and no response from the FSB,” says Shcherbachev. 

On his social media accounts, Shcherbachev suggested that the FSB officers had lied to the court by saying he was being tried under Article 222 of the Criminal Code for possession of firearms. This case never came to fruition either. The legal violations against him were not remedied either: The dagger and knife were never given back. Six months later, Shcherbachev filed a complaint against the non-execution of a court decision. The court decided that there was no violation. Shcherbachev, in turn, appealed this decision as well.

“The authorities questioned the fact that the dagger belonged to me because I have no documentary evidence that I inherited it from
my father, who was awarded it when he became
an officer in Sevastopol in the 1930s," Shcherbachev says.
Shcherbachev believes that the failure to comply with the court’s order was down to the fact that the security forces were waiting for the implementation of an amendment to the Federal law on weapons, which at that time simply regulated the possession of daggers like his father’s. As of 2017, a license is needed to possess one. Shcherbachev failed to obtain permission: the Interior Ministry said that they did not have the necessary forms. Soon Shcherbachev found out that the knife had been lost.
Demonstrations at the FSB
After the incident with the knife, Shcherbachev went to the FSB building several times with placards, demanding the return of his property. Police officers detained him. 

In May 2018, on Victory Day, Shcherbachev applied to protest in front of the FSB building against the failure to comply with the court’s decision to return his father's military awards. 

The mayor's office sent a response to this application by post, denying his request due to other events. Shcherbachev only received this letter the day after. In January 2019, the regional court recognised this refusal from the mayor's office as unlawful, as no alternative location was offered.   
After the explosion in the FSB building in 2018, committed by 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky, Shcherbachev said that if the local administration had simply allowed the young man to protest, the terrorist attack could have been avoided.
In October 2019, Shcherbachev applied to protest outside the Arkhangelsk FSB headquarters on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions. He did not receive a response, so he assumed the protest had been approved. During the demonstration, Shcherbachev was arrested and subsequently fined 160,000 rubles, but for an unrelated offence. He was charged with part 8 of Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (“Repeated violation of the procedure for holding protests”) for taking part in the unauthorised protests against the construction of a landfill at Shiyes station. He became the 53rd person to be fined for participating in the protests. The protest outside the FSB building was deemed to be legal in court.   
Online Harassment
In 2017, Yury Shcherbachev was fined for posting the video "Let us remember these crooks and thieves and their manifesto" on his VK page. This video was classified as extremist material. At the trial, the politician said that his account had been hacked in May/June 2016. He contacted the police, asking them to consider this, but he never received a reply. The court fined Shcherbachev 1,500 rubles under article 20.29 of the Administrative Code (the"Production and distribution of extremist materials"). 

In October 2020, yet another case was opened against Shcherbachev. This time, he was accused of insulting a government official (Article 319 of the Criminal Code) after posting on VK about a child’s detainment in a shopping centre. The video, filmed by the activist, shows the boy being held by two law enforcement officers who had accused him of theft. Shcherbachev wrote in the caption "bastards", "henchmen," and "Putin's goons." 

On the morning of October 8th, Yury Shcherbachev's apartment was searched, this time based on Article 319 of the Criminal Code. Three old laptops and six outdated telephones were taken.
“They told me that I had offended the police, but they hadn’t done any linguistic analysis. It is not clear why they took this equipment away. I only started to understand later on why the search took place unexpectedly in October. I'm more accustomed to thinking like a criminal, not a cop,” laughs Shcherbachev.
He believes that the police officers were waiting for other ‘insulting’ videos or photographs to be posted, but there weren’t any. Only then was he accused of insulting officials. The Investigative Committee explained to him that neither the video nor the text in isolation constituted an insult. However, the two combined do, since it is possible to identify the police officers being discussed. 

Shcherbachev cannot work out why he has been targeted like this for so long. He does not think his position as regional chairman of PARNAS or his participation in protests have are the cause. 

- “At first, I thought that the case was opened because of the caricatures and all my posts about the new governor of the Arkhangelsk region, Alexander Tsybulsky because the search took place on the day of his inauguration. Maybe it's because there are State Duma elections next year, and if I have a criminal record, I cannot be elected,” says Shcherbachev. 

His father's belongings were never returned to him. In the newer case, he faces punishment ranging from a 40,000 ruble fine, to a year of forced labour.

Shcherbachev tried to start a retaliatory criminal case against the police for assaulting a child, but this was denied. He is now looking for a lawyer to appeal against this.

Valeria Vetoshkina
Is it possible to legally hold pickets near the FSB or Ministry of Internal Affairs buildings? Team 29’s lawyer, Valeria Vetoshkina, explains.

Вернуться к тексту
Is it possible to legally hold pickets near the FSB or Ministry of Internal Affairs buildings?
The current federal legislation does not forbid one from protesting near buildings occupied by state authorities. This includes the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The only restrictions relate to holding a public event in the territory directly adjacent to the residences of the President of the Russian Federation, or near court buildings or territories involved in the execution of prison sentences. 

In November 2019, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation further clarified that regional authorities do not have the authority to impose bans on public events near state property.