Musicians receive draconian prison sentences for setting fire to military draft office in Russia

Screenshot of the YouTube video of one of Room32's concerts from their YouTube channel

Two musicians from the Chelyabinsk region were sentenced to 19 years in prison as a result of a court case on the arson of a military registration office. Russian media has also mentioned that they were a firefighter and a former Rosgvardiya (special army unit created for dealing with peaceful protests protests) serviceman.

The song is called “there is nothing to lose,” from the band's YouTube channel

Solidarity Zone, the anti-war initiative Telegram channel wrote yesterday that “the Central District Military Court of Yekaterinburg (another big city close to Chelyabinsk) sentenced the two musicians from the rock band ‘Room 32,’ Alexey Nuriev and Roman Nasryev, to 19 years in prison in the case of the administration building arson in the town of Bakal [Chelyabinsk region], where the military registration office was located.” 

In the earlier years, the Urals (the region where Chelyabinsk is located) rock club was a homeland to a plethora of dissident rock musicians. It was called “Sverdlovsk's rock club” (the former name of Yekaterinburg) or “Urals Rock Club.” In the late 80s and early 90s, these were the bands that supported the change that the Perestroika movement and following years brought.  They criticised the Soviet regime and their songs were popular among the people protesting it.  Some of the examples include the post-punk band Nautilus Pompilius and Agatha Christie.

Nautilus Pompilius is singing live one of their most popular protest songs, “Chained by one chain.” One of the comments under the video, written this year, says that the song still, after 30 years of its release, represents the reality in Russia.  Another adds that the words from the song, — “the poor pray and pray that their poverty is guaranteed” — is about the people in Russia now. The lyrics were written by Iliya Kormiltsev, a poet from Yekaterinburg who died from cancer in 2007.

Sadly, now, the headman of Nautilus, Vyacheslav Butusov, and one of the founders of Agatha Christie, Vadim Samoylov, are vocally supporting the Russian government and its “special operation” — the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

While some other musicians from the “older generation” of the Urals Rock Club are also either supporting or keeping silent about the war, the younger musicians from the Urals are protesting.

Apart from the Room 32's members, singer Monetochka from Yekaterinburg has been openly against the war and the regime; she had to leave Russia in the spring of 2022.

The song by Monetochka on a live show in Warsaw in May 2022 is called “I will survive this” and has a clear anti-war context

According to Solidarity Zone, the sentence to Room 32 band members  is so far the most cruel sentence for arson in protest against the war in Ukraine. They wrote, on the eve of the verdict:

It is possible that such an unreasonably cruel sentence [for a minor arson with no consequences] was handed down due to the fact that the defendants in the case originated from a “conditionally loyal” circles; Alexey Nuriev was an employee of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and Roman Nasryev used to work as a driver in a guard squadron belonging to the Rosgvardiya.

The musicians were found guilty under articles on the conduct of a terrorist act by a group of persons by prior agreement (paragraph “A,” part 2, Article 205 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and training for terrorist activities (Article 205.3 of the Criminal Code).

Nuriyev and Nasryev will have to spend four years in prison, as their verdict states, and the remaining term in a high security colony. With this sentence, the court fully satisfied the prosecution's request.

According to the court, in October 2022, Nuriev and Nasryev threw Molotov cocktails through the window of the Bakal Town Administration building, where the Military Registration Office was also located. However, Solidarity Zone noted that only the linoleum flooring in one of the rooms caught fire. The fire was extinguished by the watchwoman on duty.

The musicians were detained a few hours after the arson and soon sent to a pre-trial detention center, writes OVD-Info. At first, Nuriev and Nasryev were charged with intentional destruction and damage to property (Article 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but then the case was reclassified under a far more serious article.

The accused did not deny the fact of arson. In particular, Nasryev said that he committed this action to protest the mobilization announced in Russia and the war in Ukraine. At the same time, the defendants rejected the charges under the articles on terrorism.

After the outbreak of a full-scale war with Ukraine, a wave of arson attacks on military enlistment offices and other administrative buildings took place in Russia. According to Mediazona, at least 94 such attacks had been registered by April 1, 2023; in 70 cases the targets of arson were military enlistment offices and recruiting offices.

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