DOCUMENT-Témoignage de Mark Ames*****

Mark Ames

       

Mark Ames, journaliste à la plume acérée, est un grand admirateur de l'écrivain Limonov, qu'il a lu avec ferveur aux Etats Unis, avant d'arriver à Moscou.

 

Il est devenu ensuite un ami d'Edouard. Il était d'ailleurs le seul journaliste américain présent au procès de Limonov en 2002, à Saratov. Les autorités russes avaient choisi cette ville, loin de la capitale, pour éviter la présence des journalistes étrangers basés à Moscou.

Mark Ames raconte tout cela dans un texte passionnant, écrit en 2013, qui décrit bien le climat de terreur régnant en Russie, et l'acharnement du pouvoir contre Limonov .

 

      

           En voici un extrait traduit en français :

                       

 https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/half-baked-revolution/

 

  (Voir également en bas de page, le remarquable reportage de Mark Ames, tel qu'il fut publié dans The eXile, en 2002)

 

"En avril 2001, Limonov avait été arrété dans les montagnes de l'Altaï, avec quelques membres de son parti national-bolchévique.

Les forces spéciales du FSB avaient mené un raid à l'aube. Limonov fut menotté, transféré à Moscou, et jeté à Lefortovo, la célèbre prison du KGB.

             

                           Une vidéo de l'arrestation :

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itEigMl4PmQ  

 


Conscient des retombées que pourrait avoir un  procès organisé à Moscou ( vu le soutien des écrivains et critiques littéraires européens, notamment en France ), le Kremlin décida de faire juger Limonov en province, à Saratov, sur la Volga.


Limonov fut accusé d'avoir acheté des armes de façon illégale, et créé une armée insurrectionnelle pour faire un coup d'Etat au Kazakhstan.
Les armes et l'armée n'ont jamais été retrouvées, l'accusation se basant simplement sur un article paru dans Limonka, le journal de Limonov.

   

Fin 2002, j'étais le seul journaliste américain à avoir fait le voyage pour couvrir  le procés politique de Limonov à Saratov.

 A l'époque les occidentaux détestaient Limonov car son anti-libéralisme radical dénonçait tout ce qu'ils avaient de plus cher.

Les avocats de Limonov étaient désespérés : leur client  risquait 30 ans de prison, autrement dit la certitude de mourir  dans sa cellule.

 Après avoir couvert le début du procés pour "The eXile", je suis retourné à Moscou. Je restais en contact avec les avocats, qui me faisaient passer des lettres de Limonov, dont une que j'ai publié dans le journal.

Et puis soudain, les choses ont pris une tournure bizarre : les avocats ont insisté pour que je retourne à Saratov, témoigner au procès. ILs voulaient me poser des questions sur quelque chose, sans dire exactement sur quoi.

Au début, j'ai pensé que c'était parce que nos téléphones étaient sur écoute ( une triste réalité de la vie en Russie )

Puis j'ai découvert que dans les mois précédant l'arrestation, nos conversations dans l'appartement de Limonov avaient aussi  été enregistrées par une camionnette blanche garée juste en face.

 

Tous les dimanches, j'allais chez Limonov récupérer  sa chronique pour "The eXile". Nous aimions passer des heures à boire du thé et refaire le monde.

   Lors de ses derniers mois de liberté, fin 2000 et début 2001, nos conversations sur Poutine étaient gratinées : nous parlions des rumeurs sur l'implication du KGB  dans les attentats contre des immeubles d'habitations  [[[attribués aux tchétchénes , et qui avaient fait 300 morts, faisant  monter en fléche la popularité de Poutine, alors premier ministre, et qui s'était fait élire président en jouant les "hommes de fer".                Sa fameuse phrase : "J'irais buter le dernier terroriste tchetchène jusque dans les chiottes]]].

Nous parlions aussi des liens supposés du "bon Vladimir" avec le gang de la mafia de Tambov, à Saint Petersburg, ou encore des rumeurs de la presse japonaise disant que Poutine avait un faible pour les petits garçons.

 

Limonov m'a dit plus tard qu'il avait "fait dans son froc" quand le ministére public lui a laissé écouter les enregistrements de nos conversations en anglais :  il a ajouté en riant, que  si l'accusation décidait de traduire tout cela en russe  pour s'en servir comme preuves, le juge aux ordres se serait alors dirigé vers sa cage de prisonnier pour lui tirer directement une balle à bout portant.

Mais heureusement, l'accusation était tellement sûre de son fait, qu'elle ne s'est même pas donné la peine de traduire la totalité des enregistrements.

Comme je ne pouvais pas obtenir une réponse des avocats de Limonov, à propos de ce qu'ils voulaient obtenir de moi sur le banc des témoins, j'ai demandé à mon avocat ce qu'il en pensait  :

"N'y allez surtout pas. C'est beaucoup trop risqué. La défense de Limonov est désespérée. Ils veulent impliquer un américain. Leur stratégie est de vous faire poursuivre, pour ensuite médiatiser le procés au niveau international. Limonov va passer le reste de sa vie en prison : il a déja 60 ans. Je ne peux pas vous dire ce qu'il faut faire, Mark, mais mon conseil est de ne pas y aller, et d'arrêter de prendre les avocats au téléphone"

 

Quelques jours plus tard, la télévision russe a diffusé un grand reportage bien vicieux sur Limonov...

                   LA VIDEO DU REPORTAGE, ICI :

http://www.tout-sur-limonov.fr/334947298

 

 Dans ce reportage, Limonov était dépeint comme un terroriste bolchévique particulièrement dangereux et violent. Et, ce qui m'a fait dresser les cheveux sur la tête, le journaliste affirmait :

"Une partie de l'argent récolté par Limonov  pour sa révolution armée venait d'une source américaine anonyme".

On entendait alors une écoute téléphonique de Limonov, ou il disait à un membre du parti national-bolchévique :

"J'ai même un ami américain qui nous donne de l'argent pour notre révolution".

Mon nom n'a pas été cité, mais Limonov n'avait pas beaucoup d'amis américains. Et je le payais régulièrement pour ses chroniques dans "The eXile".

 


Ses avocats essayaient peut-être de m'entrainer à Saratov dans un piège mortel. Qui sait tout ce que j'avais pû raconter dans nos conversations du dimanche .. j'étais parfois dans un état second.  

  C'est alors que j'ai voulu avoir l'avis de mon ami Vassia , qui était alors le responsable juridique de la plus grande compagnie pétrolière russe, Ioukos, dont le président était encore Mikhail Khodorkovsky.     

[[[[ Dans cet article, Mark Ames raconte également l'histoire tragique de Vassia, emprisonné à la suite de Khodorkovsky, et mort du Sida , quelques années après. ]]]]

 

La dernière fois que je m'étais trouvé dans une affaire difficile, les conseils de Vassia m'avaient été trés utiles. Il m'avait expliqué tout ce que je devais faire pour ne pas être victime d'un "accident" que préparait le gang mafieux Orekhovo-Borisovo. Inutile de dire que j'ai suivi ses conseils à la lettre.

Cette fois ci, VAssia ne m'a pas donné de conseil : bien installés autour d'un verre dans une boite de nuit confortable, il m'a tenu un discours philosophique !

" Tu sais mon pote, mon pére m'a toujours dit quelque chose que j'ai seulement compris récemment. Et je vais te le dire à toi, maintenant. "Tout le monde meurt à cause de ses idées". Tu comprends, ce que je veux dire, mon pote?  Nous mourrons tous en raison de nos idées.

Tu sais, mon  pére était membre de l'Académie des Sciences, c'était un physicien, un grand physicien, et à l'époque soviétique, dans les années 70, être un physicien de l'Académie des Sciences, c'était vraiment le top du top.

Mais il est entré en conflit avec un clan puissant, sur les principes, la politique - je ne vais pas en parler maintenant, mais mon père n'a pas reculé.      Et il a payé pour ça. Il a été expulsé. Il a perdu ses privilèges. Il a tout perdu. Et il m'a répété de nombreuses fois :"Tout le monde meurt à cause de ses propres idées" . 

Alors, tu dois te demander quelles sont tes idées. Limonov, ses idées, on les connait. Pour une raison que j'ignore, mon pote, tu aimes ce type . Moi, je n'aime pas Limonov, je ne supporte pas ce fils de pute. Mais au moins je sais que cet individu, Limonov va probablement mourir pour ses idées. Personne ne pense qu'il va sortir de prison vivant. Pour moi, c'est un fils de pute, car il entraine d'autres personnes derrière lui, des faibles, et qui vont mourir pour l'idée de quelqu'un d'autre.

Tu vois ce que je veux dire, mon pote... Je ne vais pas te donner des conseils ou te dire ce que tu dois faire. Tu aimes les ennuis, tu aimes ce genre de journalisme à la noix. Tu sais ce que je pense de ton journal de merde, mec . Mais tu es mon ami, et j'essaie d'aider mes amis : je n'aime pas les perdre. Et à propos des avocats de Limonov, ce qu'ils essaient de faire, c'est te baiser pour sauver leur client.     C'est ce que tu veux, mon pote? "

     [[[[[[ Je saute une bonne partie de l'article .  ]]]]

 

Limonov est à peu près la seule personne que je connaisse qui ait tenu ferme face à la répression politique. Il en est même sorti renforcé .

Au moment de sa libération, à l'été 2003, il a été accueilli en triomphateur à Moscou. Des députés de la Douma, des écrivains, des artistes, et des centaines de jeunes militants politiques radicalisés se pressaient autour du train,  à son arrivée. C'était un héros qui avait défié le terrible pouvoir de Poutine.
 

La prison a profondément changé Limonov : il s'est ensuite battu pour une réforme pénitentiaire et le droit des détenus. IL est devenu un grand admirateur du peuple tchétchène et de l'Islam.

IL a abandonné la plupart des aspects nationalistes de sa politique pour se positionner de plus en plus à gauche.

Et il a fait une alliance avec les libéraux, qu'il avait méprisé, en partenariat avec le champion du monde d'échecs Garry Kasparov, l'ancien premier ministre Mikhail Kassianov, et un trés proche d'Eltsine, l'ancien ministre Boris Nemtsov.

 

Limonov a écrit 8 livres au cours des 2 années et demi passées en prison. Et peu après sa libération, il s'est remarié et a eu ses 2 premiers enfants.

  Il y a 2 ans, une biographie en français sur Limonov a remporté le Prix Renaudot, et cette année une compagnie de cinéma italienne a acheté les droits du livre pour en faire un film budgeté à 20 millions de dollars.

   

Et pendant ce temps, Limonov est toujours aussi radical au niveau politique .
 

  Je n'ai jamais parlé avec Limonov du piège potentiel que ses avocats m'avaient préparé. Et il n'a jamais soulevé cette question avec moi. Après tout ses avocats faisaient ce qu'ils avaient à faire pour libérer leur client.

Mais ce n'était pas l'idée sur laquelle j'étais prêt à m'empaler moi même.

                                                                          Mark Ames - 2013

  Limonov by Mark Ames, here, in English :

http://www.tout-sur-limonov.fr/222318825

 

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MARK AMES

        Le journaliste américain Mark Ames a dirigé à Moscou le bimensuel  gratuit "The eXile" (en langue anglaise) de 1997 jusqu'à sa clôture par Poutine, en 2008.

 

"The eXile" était,  selon l'écrivain et journaliste Thierry Marignac,  "un mélange invraisemblable entre Hara-Kiri, Rolling Stone et Pariscope "

  Sa fermeture fut provoquée en grande partie  par les chroniques d'Edouard Limonov, rédigées directement en anglais, et particuliérement suivies par les lecteurs... et les autorités.

 

Lire les chroniques de Limonov ici :

http://exiledonline.com/?s=Edward%20Limonov

 

 

 

           

 (De tout cela, Emmanuel Carrère ne dit pas un mot dans son livre)

 

Mark Ames a consacré de nombreux articles à Edouard Limonov. En voici un, très complet, en anglais :

http://exiledonline.com/russian-roulette-mark-ames-radar-magazine-profile-on-eduard-limonov/

 

 

     

 Pour comprendre ce que fut l'épopée de "The eXile" à Moscou, voici un grand reportage paru dans l'edition américaine de VAnity Fair en 2010 :

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/02/exile-201002

 

 On a même évoqué à Hollywood la possibilité de faire un film sur les aventures incroyables de l'équipe de The eXile à Moscou.  

     

On peut aussi lire une anthologie datant de l'an 2.000 qui contient déja pas mal de textes de Limonov :    

           "The eXile : Sex, Drugs and libel in the New Russia"  Grove Press  ( sur Amazon à 18 euros - on peut voir plusieurs pages gratuitement, dont la préface de Limonov ) :

http://www.amazon.fr/The-Exile-Drugs-Libel-Russia/dp/0802136524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392263269&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Exile%3A+Sex%2C+Drugs%2C

         -----     -----     -----     -----     -----  

 

Le reportage de Mark Ames, tel qu'il fut publié dans The eXile, en 2002, au moment du procès de Limonov à Saratov.  

 REMARQUABLE !

 

 

The trial of Edward Limonov, the 59 ­year ­old former "The eXile" columnist and one of Russia's most famous writers, has been going on for nearly two months now, and the English ­language press has still all but ignored it.

While there has been plenty of press about the state's attacks on two other, far less talented writers, Vladimir Sorokin and Bayan Shiryanov, Limonov's case remains almost completely unknown.

Limonov, as chairman of the extremist National­Bolshevik Party, is charged with attempting to buy arms, raise an army and invade Kazakhstan. The weapons and the army were never found, but the trial in Saratov is going ahead anyway.

He was arrested in April of 2001, held for over a year in Lefortovo, the former KGB's prison in Moscow, then transferred to Saratov this summer for trial. He faces up to 25 years at hard labor.

I arrived in Saratov, an 80 minute flight south of Moscow, last Tuesday evening. The prosecution was still in the middle of calling its witnesses. It plans to call some 26 witnesses in all, in a trial that should last at least until the end of the year. The courthouse is located in a nondescript five­story building, hidden by a row of sidewalk birches, next to a large private high school.

When I arrived, five workers in blue overalls were struggling with a white ATM machine at the courthouse entrance. I couldn't tell if they were taking it away or putting it in. In the sunken lobby on the first floor was a branch of O.B.I. bank. O.B.I. half­collapsed after August 1998, and is said to be owned by Almazexport Group, a scary diamond export company. What the hell its bank branch and cash machine were doing inside the highest court in Saratov is anyone's guess, but the grotesque scene seemed apt: Limonov faces life in prison, while Putin has yet to jail any of the oligarchs who stole everything of value in Russia and sent millions to early graves. A crowd of glum O.B.I. bank depositors or moneychangers sat in chairs waiting their turn. In most countries, a bank branch located on the first floor of a state court house would raise a lot of questions; in today's Russia, it's one of the few signs that the bank may just be strong and connected enough not to steal all of its depositors' money the way most banks did a few years ago.

I had to pass through a metal detector in the foyer. The cops told me I'd have problems bringing a video camera upstairs. When I told them that I'm an American journalist coming to see the Limonov trial, they suddenly got nervous, turned away and let me pass, pulling a classic Sergeant Schultz "I see nu­zink!" move.

I'd been given the wrong time for the start of the trial, and had to wait in the hallway until the lunch break. I sat in something like a grammar school desk chair, next to one of the goons in camouflage fatigues. Across the hall were three skinheads, all young and thin, in bomber jackets, one with a Confederate flag patch. (That idiotic Confederate flag is something I never understood about skinheads ­­ why support the side that not only got its ass kicked, but was also responsible for the fact that there are so many angry African­Americans in America in the first place?! Then again, the skins also support Hitler, who murdered more of their beloved white people than anyone in history.) With them was Arina Koltsova, the 21­year ­old press secretary for the National ­Bolshevik Party who had moved from Moscow to Saratov a few months earlier with her boyfriend to better coordinate food and medical donations to Limonov and the five other National­ Bolsheviks on trial.

The three skinheads standing with her were waiting to be called as witness by the prosecution. Two came from Krasnoyarsk, one from Rostov. "They've been sleeping on the floor of our studio apartment," Koltsova told me. "It's been crazy at our house. We've been letting all the prosecution's witnesses stay with us for free. Yesterday we had a crazy journalist from Cheboskary here, an old alcoholic who was drunk from the time he arrived until he left. When he took the stand as a witness, he couldn't even tell which one of the defendants in the cage was Limonov. The prosecutors were shaking their heads. It was hilarious."  «  After the morning session ended, everyone in the hallways was herded and forced to stand halfway up the stairwell against the wall, about 50 meters from the defendants, while the guards led them away. There must have been some 15 to 20 police and camouflaged paramilitary goons guarding Limonov and the defendants. The same security routine was repeated on their way back into the courtroom after lunch. See if you can spot the new name for Limonka after the authorities banned it Watching a Russian trial can be unsettling.

The defendant, whether a young female poet like Alina Vitukhnovskaya or a pension­aged radical writer like Limonov, is always obliged to sit in a grim cage, whose bars are generally painted green­gray, police standing on either side. The defendant's cage was introduced into the courts during Gorbachev's time after Soviet prosecutors were impressed with the use of the cage during Italy's crackdown on the Mafia. How any defendant could possibly be judged impartially or appear potentially innocent if he's already sitting in a cage, and a judge is used to seeing him in that cage, is beyond me. But that's how it is.

The presiding judge, Vladimir Matrosov, was an impressive figure, not just because he's got one of those dignified trim beards, but also because of his quick thinking and sardonic wit during the cross examination. He also has one of the worst facial twitches I've ever seen. At first I thought it was an affectation, or that he was trying to cut a comical figure like Inspector Clouseau's fatally­ annoyed chief. Then I realized that the right corner of Mironov's mouth jerked nearly to his ear at regular five second intervals, as quick as a frog's tongue snapping at a fly. The twitch never stopped.

Mironov had overruled the FSB's attempt to close the trial to the public and media. However, he banned all cameras and interviews during trial proceedings. Still, the Russian media had managed to both film and interview Limonov in his cage. But they've lost interest in the trial. There were fewer than ten people in the public seats at the trial, most of whom were Limonov sympathizers like acting National ­Bolshevik leader Anatoly Tishin.

There was only one local journalist. I was told I could film with my video camera, but everyone told me something different about when and how I could use it. So just before Mironov took the bench I reached for my bag and took out the camera, at the prodding of both a friendly National ­Bolshevik and Duma deputy and former Vladivostok mayor Viktor Cherepkov (who is serving as a special counsel to Limonov).

A cop and one of the camouflaged paramilitary thugs yelled at me to put the camera back. Cherepkov yelled back that he was a Duma deputy, that he would raise the matter in the Duma and with Attorney General Ustinov, and insisted that I pull the camera out and film. I was nervous, mostly for the camera, but I pulled it out anyway.

Suddenly three goons were on me faster than one of Mironov's facial twitches. One of the paramilitary goons looked exactly like Putin, only bigger and balder. Another had his baton out. They prepared to seize me and drag me off, god knows where. There was an uproar. "Da ladno, ne nada," I said. "I'll put the camera back. There's no need to take me away." To my surprise, they backed off when I put the camera in the bag.   

Only after the session was over, at around 6 in the evening, was I able to briefly film Limonov. When I tried to ask him in English how he felt, a cop grabbed me and made me leave, telling me I wasn't allowed to speak to him. Limonov smiled at me. That, and a beaming wave hello when he first saw me, was all the contact I had with Limonov. Most of the prosecution's witnesses only helped Limonov's cause. They either came off as harmless bohemians or actually undercut the prosecution's claim of a grand master plan for invasion directed by Limonov.

The prosecutors were a strange pair. The Moscow prosecutor, a high­ranking deputy in the Attorney General's Moscow office named Sergei Verbin, has a long, dark, sunken face with a thick drooping mustache and tinted glasses, almost the spitting image of Felix, the evil police informant in the Bmovie classic Deep Cover.

Verbin's sidekick, the local federal prosecutor from the Saratov oblast, has the plump, boyish face of a one­time Pioneer leader who marries a younger version of his mother. Both wore the royal blue uniforms and gold star lapels of the federal prosecutor's office. Neither seemed particularly impassioned about their case, neither offering particularly compelling questions during the sessions that I witnessed. It generally went like this: Skinhead struts into courtroom, tries hard to look calm and collected while clutching the creaky podium...

Verbin: "Have you read the article 'Drugaya Rossiya'"? Skinhead: "No." Vergin: "Have you seen bulletin number 5 for the NBP?" Skinhead: "No." Verbin: "Did Savenko E.V. [Limonov's real name] ever speak to you about buying weapons or invading Kazakhstan?" Skinhead: "No." Verbin: "No further questions."

The afternoon session wasn't much better for the prosecution. The first witness called, a tall, gentlelooking 29­year­ old graphic design artist from Rostov, spoke so softly that he had to move twice. Judge Mironov at one point quipped, "Should we get you an interpreter?" Another time, when others in the courtroom complained they couldn't hear the witness, Mironov, working on the success of his previous joke, quipped, "Maybe we should get an interpreter for him so that the rest of us can understand what he's saying." Everyone obediently laughed; Mironov's spasm became a restrained, self­satisfied twitch, rather than a tick. Eventually Mironov ordered the soft­spoken, nervous skin to stand right in front of him and his two geriatric "people's witnesses," a pair of gray­skinned babushki on either side of Mironov who could barely keep their eyes open or their heads from falling into their chests. Even still, you could barely hear him. Someone was pounding the wall with a hammer above us. The Rostov skinhead's testimony ended in shambles when Limonov's attorney turned the subject onto his graphic design and artistic background, and his relationship with other former National Bolsheviks who went on to form the popular rock group Zapretniye Barabanchiki, who had a number one hit in Russia two years ago with "Ubili Negra" or "They Killed a Negro." The other two skinheads I'd met in the morning session, both from Krasnoyarsk, were just as unhelpful to the prosecution.

They denied ever hearing about plans for an armed invasion of Kazakhstan or the controversial article in Limonov's newspaper, Limonka, called "Drugaya Rossiya" or "Another Russia" which the prosecution alleges was a blueprint for the invasion of Northern Kazakhstan and the implementation of a National ­Bolshevik regime there with Limonov as its leader.

The publication of the "Drugaya Rossiya" article early last year, while Limonov was in Krasnoyarsk researching his book on aluminum magnate Anatoly Bykov, plays a big role in the prosecution's case. Limonov's defense claims that Limonov didn't write the article. Not only has the prosecution failed to prove that Limonov wrote "Drugaya Rossiya," but just yesterday, Limonka's editor, Alexei Volonets, admitted in court that the real author was Vladimir Linderman, a National ­Bolshevik party member in Latvia.

When the prosecution asked why Linderman had never revealed himself before, Volonets said, "Because he was afraid he'd be arrested and thrown in jail." In fact, Limonka, the incendiary newspaper named after both Limonov and the slang for hand grenade, was finally shut down by the authorities last month. However, the newspaper is already back in print, renamed "Generalnaya Liniya" or "The General Line" in small print, and the same Limonka logotype in large.

The head of Limonov's defense team is Sergei Beliak, a famous attorney who once defended Vladimir Zhirinovsky against Boris Nemtsov following the famous orange­ juice ­throwing incident. Beliak, who looks like a young bohemian himself, appears in court wearing a black leather sport coat over a black turtlneck, with a modest goatee growing on his chin. Beliak is joined by one Moscow aide, three local Saratov attorneys and Duma deputy Cherepkov, but he handles nearly all of the load himself. He is sharp, imposing and nuanced in his treatment of the prosecution's witnesses.

It wasn't until the following afternoon, last Thursday, when a tall former NBP member from the Volgograd branch took the stand, that Beliak showed his fangs. This witness was unlike any of the others. He was unusually confident and articulate, speaking without the shy defiance or the ums and ahs of his predecessors. I wrote in my notes that it appeared he'd been prepared. His testimony was the first that really damaged Limonov and the other defendants. He said everything that the prosecution wanted to hear: that when he came to Moscow for an NBP congress, he'd been told of plans to buy weapons, rendez vous in Altai with several other  National­ Bolsheviks, and invade Kazakhstan.

When it was Beliak's turn, he asked, "What is your employment again?" Witness: "I work for the social department of the Volgograd administration." Beliak: [mocking tone] "You work for the social department of the Volgograd administration. I see, I see. The Volgograd Administration. [pause] And how did you pay to come here?" Witness: "The police helped pay for my trip here." Beliak: [mocking tone] "The police helped pay for you to come here. I see, the police. So, you work for the Volgograd administration and the police paid for you to come here and give testimony."

Beliak caught him lying about how many times he'd run afoul of the police in previous years. It got so brutal that the prosecutor twice objected, and the judge upheld his objections to Beliak's questioning. The witness started to break. He admitted he'd never heard Limonov trying to obtain weapons or ordering the invasion. He admitted that he didn't know who wrote "Drugaya Rossiya" and that he hadn't even read it.

After the trial, I spoke to a National ­Bolshevik who remembered the witness. He described him as a big talker and bullshitter, and laughed when I asked if he thought that he was a police plant. "You can probably say that." The witness and another sketchy character power­walked out of the courtroom and down Ulitsa Sovietskaya, then around the corner. I followed them to see where they were going. In a state of agitation and confusion, they circled in the middle of Ulitsa Pushkinskaya, making first as if to take a taxi, then a bus, then as if to get into a white Lada devyatka. Then they nervously walked back to the corner of Ulitsa Sovietskaya and peered around the corner to see if they were being followed. Then they power walked the other way down Ulitsa Sovietskaya.

 

Limonov looks surprisingly healthy for a 59 ­year­ old asthmatic imprisoned for over 18 months. He spends each session of his trial writing detailed notes of every word said, concentrating hard, and delivering questions when appropriate.

His long, mostly gray hair reminds you of an older Che Guevera, while the goatee is Kalinin by way of Colonel Sanders. He looks like what he is : a defiant radical who hasn't been broken.

But things are worse than they appear. While in Lefortovo, Limonov was given enough space and comfort to complete seven manuscripts, two of which have already been published. In Saratov, he has to share a holding cell with three men: an accused murderer, robber and burglar.  

Beliak claims that Limonov gets on fine with his cellmates, that they've "read all of his novels, even the first one," a reference to the infamous descriptions of homosexual sex in "It's Me, Eddie".

Some reports in the French press have not made Limonov's cellmates out to be as respectful. Whatever the case, Limonov has stopped writing. He also has not been able to send letters to friends (I haven't received a letter since June), and has received few himself.

Arina, the NBP press secretary living in Saratov, told me that she and another National ­Bolshevik got jumped by a gang of unknown people not long after they moved to Saratov. As they beat her and her friend, the attackers yelled things like "Limonov is a faggot!" "It was probably some people connected to the police," she told me, shaking her head. It's not hard to imagine. Even though the Putin regime has demonized Limonov for being a fascist, Putin's own youth movement, Moving Together, has been linked by many, including Novaya Gazeta, to Nazi and skinhead organizations. The link is barely hidden.

Last month, when Ireland's soccer team came to Moscow to play the Russian national team, one of the eXile staffers spent an afternoon and evening with a large group of Moving Together members.  One of them pulled our staffer aside and said, "You know, I'm a fascist. I think we have to get rid of all the Jews and niggers." He nearly stomped our staffer's half­Jewish friend who was with him because his name was David. "Your name's David? Are you a Jew? Are you a Jew"?! the Moving Together teenager asked menacingly. David lied. "I would have been killed," he later told me. "I was completely outnumbered."

 

Nothing has been more frustrating about Limonov's trial than the Western press's silence. The few correspondents I know who have tried to sell the story to their newspapers have failed. Others are openly happy to see Limonov behind bars, as if he got what he deserved, even if few believe that Limonov really posed a threat to Russia or Kazakhstan.

PEN International, the umbrella organization representing writers around the world, issued a statement in March expressing concern about the nature of Limonov's trial and calling for his release. But that is one of the few voices of protest from the hypocritical West.

I just don't see how a journalist can claim to stand for freedom of conscience and dissent...except in the case where his own values are under threat. Then again, since 9/11, it's hard to be surprised: most American journalists showed just how deep their journalist ethics really ran, abandoning what little skepticism, inquisitiveness and impartiality they had left for pure jingoism once they felt threatened. So much for universal values.

Does Limonov really pose a threat? Yes, I think he does. As an Afghan war veteran friend told me, while fascist fruitcakes like Barkashov may have actual armies of men, they're merely cub scout masters with no fresh ideas who pose no threat to order. People like Limonov and the artists, intellectuals, poets and punks who gather around him are the kind of radical intellectuals who, although they themselves may not pose a physical threat, come up with ideas that might take root and germinate. That's what threatens the regime. And that's why Limonov, alone among Russia's extremists, is in real danger of spending the rest of his life in prison.   

                                                 Mark Ames - The eXile - 2002