Translation: Bolotnaya Prisoner tells of Georgian Money and Revolution

Olesya Gerasimenko interviews Konstantin Lebedev, recently convicted of planning riots at the Bolotnaya rally of 6 May, 2012 and given a 2.5 year prison sentence. After his plea bargain and shocking confessions, his former comrades now call him a traitor.

Konstantin Lebedev – “I Don’t Consider Myself a Traitor”

Were you pleased with the sentence?

I was facing 2-3 years anyhow, so I don’t see any point in appealing. My lawyer says I should wait a year and then request parole.

What exactly did you admit to in the deal with the prosecution?

I admitted to the organization of mass disorders on 6 May, along with Sergei Udaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhayev, and Givi Targamadze. I also admitted to planning similar disorders for some unspecified time in the future, along with the same participants.

Did they torture you?

No, I wasn’t tortured.

In that case, why did you agree to the deal?

I became convinced that the prosecution possessed overwhelming evidence of our guilt. I saw that the investigation had the testimony of Leonid Razvozzhayev. This (testimony) determined the further course of the investigation, and since Lenya [Razvozzhayev] was fully invested in everything, his testimony did not leave open any questions (in the minds of the investigators).

His statement was written before your deal (with the prosecution)?

Yes, of course. I learnt about it sometime around October 20, and my agreement with the investigators is dated 7 November. It was obvious to me that this whole story with the court, the prosecution, and the Investigative Committee – was just a big fiction. I had to assume that the video and tapped phone and Skype conversations were obtained by legal/operative means, and I understood perfectly that the decision (about our guilt) had already been made at the highest level. And that no matter how we might try to wiggle out of it, the only thing that awaits us is a guilty verdict. Hence, I had the following choice: either to fight back against overwhelming odds, to resist stubbornly, but nothing good would have come out of that, only a 10-year maximum sentence; the alternative: to admit the obvious, the OBVIOUS. In my confessions I did not utter one word that is not true, and I did not falsely accuse anyone. I am not an idiot, I KNOW that they wanted Udaltsov. I confessed to everything, and they were, like, “Run along, little boy, we’ll just give you the minimum (sentence), we’re not interested in you.” To fight back, dig in stubbornly, receive a 10-year sentence, and STILL not save anybody – well, that was the choice I had. A choice worthy of a fanatic, but not of a rational person.

Because of (the choice you made), many people have called you a traitor. Do you feel yourself to be a traitor?

No, in this circumstance, I don’t feel myself to be a traitor. The people who participated in this thing [Bolotnaya] knew what they were doing, and that such an outcome was a possibility. As far as all the participants of these mass disorders are concerned, I didn’t give any evidence that would make any one person’s situation worse than it already was. As for Lenya [Leonid Razvozzhayev] and Seryozha [Sergei Udaltsov], well, that’s our business. We knew what we were doing, and that the scale of our plan could well lead to serious consequences.

What do you mean by scale of your plan?

The creation of a powerful leftist party, receiving money from abroad, at least that is what Targamadze talked about, and, in the end, to enter into the organs of power. In other words, the plan was for us to replace the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] and to move Udaltsov up to the level of a politician at the federal level.

Such plans do not necessarily lead to a prison sentence.

No, but we realize how the government regards Udaltsov, and that leading people out onto Sakharov (Prospekt) really scared the government. Also, the organizers of these events are pretty clear about the fact that they want to demolish the present government. Hence, bringing Udaltsov into the power structure presupposes that he would (eventually) push out all the other people, who came to power through blood and corpses, and are not inclined to (easily) give up their power.

You yourself worked in one of these power structures. Why did you get involved in Vasily Yakemenko’s pro-Kremlin movement, “Walking Together”?

That was a long time ago. The ad agency that I worked for closed during the crisis of 1998. I was a member of the Russian Communist Working Party, this didn’t bring me any money, on the contrary [I needed money to pay my party dues]. Then “Walking” came along, and I was astonished [that they would invest money into a political organization?], so I thought this was interesting, I spoke with my party leadership, and went off to work (for “Walking”). Soon I became their press secretary, I worked there for several years, participated in all their activities.

Didn’t it bother you that “Walking” during its activities hung up portraits of Zyuganov alongside those of Berezovsky?

In all honesty… Well, I asked about it at the time. We laughed about it with our commie friends. Zyuganov was not particularly liked.

And when this movement called for people to gather up and toss (Karl) Marx’s books into the rubbish bin?

I took them (the gathered books) all home, to supplement my own collection. My soul is at peace in that regard.

When did you leave “Walking”?

The political situation began to change. Khodorkovsky was sent to jail. It was the start of the “Nashi” movement, which focused on crushing dissent. At that point it became impossible to reconcile my political views with my job. And since by that time I had accumulated political ambitions, experience, and even a little bit of money, I decided to leave.

What do you mean by “political ambitions”?

As with many people, the first impulse was curiosity. Before I joined the communists I would just hang around bullshitting. I started to read Marx only after joining the party. I did not come from a wealthy family. As a young man, I loved protest. After working briefly in a boiler room, I truly understood what it means to be a proletariat. At the same time I began to realize that pickets, meetings and so on, don’t work, so I went for the technologies of the Maidan.

When did you meet Givi Targamadze?

In 2005, in the Ukraine, towards the end of Maidan. In the course of several months I participated in the “Orange Revolution”. Some guys from the “Chernaya Pora” movement started to trust me, and they introduced me to their sponsors and teachers – the Targamadze team. Because I had already proved to them, not in words but in deeds, that I could do a lot and was capable of a lot.

What do you mean [by saying you were capable of a lot at Maidan.]

Well, we organized crowds. We helped bring whole institutions out into the street. In a conflict with the Donetsk guys [supporters of Yanukovich], we would tell them: “We’re from Moscow, and we’re against Putin.” We participated in all the actions. Yashin was there too, but just for a couple of hours, he handed out books, and then left. I’m not like that. I need to get totally involved.

When did you first receive money from Targamadze, and what was it for?

In 2006, for work (I did) in Belarus. I monitored how the local activists spent their funds. My job was simple: verify if they really did glue up the posters; count how many people really came to the demonstrations, talk to certain people, convey instructions. So I would go to them, I could go to them, they couldn’t come to me.

Why did Targamadze agree to work with you, a former member of a pro-Kremlin organization, someone without a higher education, someone with communist views?

I think the guys from “Pora” put in a good word for me. And you know, you have to trust somebody, otherwise nothing gets done. We hung out together, they got the fact that I was a man of convictions, a man with ambitions, a man who knew what to do. Also the fact that we were willing to devote so much of our time to Maidan, this was something exotic for them, there weren’t a whole lot of people like that.

But all the same, he [Givi] didn’t know you that well, and just a year after meeting you, he’s giving you money. Why did he trust you?

I can’t explain that. It happens. Also, the money was just crumbs, at first.

How much (money) did you receive for your work in Belarus?

They paid for all my expenses, room and board, plus a weekly salary of around 1000 Euros. They also paid me some small amounts for writing some analyses of the situation in Russia.

How did Targamadze’s first monies enter into Russia?

Via the movement that I created, called “Smena” (“Change”). This organization existed solely on grants from Georgia and Europe.

At present your comrades from “Smena” have made for themselves different careers: Nikolai Lyaskin has become the head of the Moscow filial of Navalny’s so-called political party, the “People’s Alliance”. Mikhail Velmakin has become the coordinator of the Council of Municipal Deputies. Stanislav Yakovlev is making a good living thanks to the head of the “Democratic Choice” party, Vladimir Milov. Did these men know at the time where the money was coming from?

I should prefer not to answer that question.

Okay. How did Udaltsov meet Targamadze?

On Targamadze’s initiative. In 2011, when the protests against the Duma elections started, he (Givi) became very excited and wanted to get involved in this process. He didn’t want to be left on the sidelines. He told me: “I really like Udaltsov.” I realized why (he said that), although I have to stress that Sergei (Udaltsov) and I had very poor relations at that time. They (Givi’s people) decided to grant him (Udaltsov) money, and I was cool with that, even though Sergei and I were not sympatico, but still at least he was a lefty, and so I could have some influence on him, you know.

And Targamadze was not interested in Alexei Navalny?

He asked me about Navalny. I told him that wasn’t an option, because Navalny would not go for it. And he didn’t go for it, in truth.

Why? Because Navalny is more intelligent than Udaltsov?

No, it’s just that he (Navalny) is not as monstrously desperate (as we are) when it comes to money. Now in hindsight we can look at this and ask, Well, why did he do it? Put yourself in Seryoga’s shoes: you’re a well-known activist with a decent number of followers, and you have no money at all. He (Udaltsov) really, really wanted his personal political independence. Maybe for a trip to Novosibirsk all you need is your principles, your honour, and a few horses; but how far will you get? When people accuse me of misleading honorable people, then I wish to reply: People, this is the way it is. Underground work and fund-raising: this is a part of the life of an oppositionist. And you don’t necessarily need to know all the gory facts .

Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov were not disturbed by the idea of receiving money from Georgia?

Nope, not one bit. However strange that sounds. I recall that we met once in “Yolki-Palki” [a fast-food chain]. We had to make an important decision whether or not to meet (with Givi). I expressed my misgivings: “This man is the head of the Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security – this would be a step in a completely different direction for us, we need to really think, do we want to do this or not? I am thinking now that if Lenya [Leonid Razvozzhayev] had not been there, then nothing would have happened. But he (Razvozzhayev) saw the opportunity to engage unencumbered in his favourite activity: politics. Therefore he became the most active proponent of lobbying for a meeting with Targamadze. If at the time we had not been thinking about raising money for the party, but rather about the fact that this whole affair threatened us with 10 years of prison time, then (I am pretty sure) we would have lowered our gaze, stood up, and left (the restaurant). However, this conversation took place before the May 6 disorders. Furthermore, I am convinced that if this story had happened 5 years earlier, we would have gotten away with it.

How many times did you, along with Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov, meet with Targamadze in Minsk?

Three times. The first time was March 2012. We (three) arrived in the car of (Duma) Deputy Ilya Ponomarev, Lenya always drove Udaltsov everywhere in this car. We arrived, we got acquainted, we had a drink together. We attempted to write up some kind of estimate, but we were already drunk. Givi always had a lot of people around him, he was always accompanied by an entourage. Once he even arrived with a delegation of 40 people. We hung out (with him) in the hotel, sat around drinking and partying, as usual. The way it always happened was that we would drink for 2 days, then on the third day they would come up with some kind of plan, then they would leave. So, here you have these 42 people drinking and carousing, then they drag themselves off to the airport. Then they notice: what the fuck, where’s the boss? They left him behind in the hotel. They forgot to wake him up.

Then we came back in June, and also a third time – at the end of August, from Lithuania, in a car with “Vasilich” [Givi Targamadze’s alias]. Prior to that we had drunk 26 bottles of wine between the four of us in one evening, in Lithuania. And then Vasilich says, “We’re going to Minsk right now, phone Seryoga. I was totally drunk at the time, I somehow managed to phone Seryoga, he was somewhere around Bryansk. A car with diplomatic plates came to pick us up. Behind the wheel is the drunken Georgian ambassador to Lithuania, he was one of the guys who helped us drink all those bottles. And at a speed of 140 kph we zoom to the border. There we switch to a different car with diplomatic plates, this one belonging to the Georgian ambassador to Belarus. In this car we arrive at the apartment and start to party again. Seryoga and Lenya arrived the following day, and we all started to drink together. When we were flying home, I was really drunk, and at the airport I was scared that somebody would take a picture of me and Seryoga. The stewardesses were horrified (by our drunkenness), and I just prayed that nobody would recognize us.

Don’t you think it’s strange to be drinking so much while planning a revolution?

It’s a different culture [i.e., Georgian], it’s not like our (Russian) culture. It was in this state that they conducted affairs. Vasilich himself is a chronic, he’s a true alcoholic, a dissipated wretch of a man. As an activist and strategist, he’s a dead man walking.

Which one (of these 3) meetings was recorded in the NTV documentary, “Anatomy of a Protest”?

The second one. In June. At that one there were eight people, somebody or another was always coming and going. There was me, Seryoga (Sergei Udaltsov), Lenya (Leonid Razvozzhayev), another old pal of mine, Aimaletdinov. Almych in truth barely participated in the meeting, he had been sleeping it off since the morning. Targamadze, of course, who had been reading lectures on the Meladze protests to Russian activists at seminars in Lithuania; some Greco-Roman wrestler Georgi, I don’t know his last name, he had competed against [Russian wrestler Aleksancr] Karelin. He (Georgi) was huge, they nicknamed him “Luca Brazzi”. And some other guy from the (Georgia) embassy. There were a lot of people there.

Did you yourselves conduct any audio or video recording of this meeting?

No. Occasionally I did do some audio recordings of the Georgians, but not this time. Why did I sometimes do it? In 2010 when they invited me to work in Minsk on another occasion, I knew that since 2008 the Georgians and Belorussians had become friends. Lukashenko had made a turn towards Europe, and Berezovsky went there (to Belarus). Like I said, the Georgians and Belorussians had reconciled, and Sukharenko, who was at that time the head of the KGB in Belarus, allowed the Georgians to flock into Belarus. And in 2010 Targamadze told me how this all happened: They really wanted Lukashenko to turn away from Russia. One of his (Lukashenko’s) conditions was that the Georgians would turn over to his KGB all the files they had on the Belorussian opposition, with whom they (the Georgians) had been working for quite some time and who had been receiving a lot of Georgian money. So, they (the Georgians) complied (with Lukashenko’s conditions) and told him all about the actions they had sponsored, and handed over to him all the Belorussian oppositionists that they had been working with. At the 2010 elections they (the Georgians) had given me the following assignment: Go around to all your oppositionist friends, find out their plans, and tell us all about it. After that (conversation), I bought a dictaphone and began to record these types of conversations. I let my local activist friends listen to them, and they were shocked. It was an unpleasant situation.

Why didn’t you cut all ties with Targamadze after hearing such things?

Well, the thing is, they (the Georgians) had money. For us, lefties, that’s such a rare thing. We’re not liberals. We never had any money and never will have any money. I made the decision that it was impossible to pass on such a resource as the Chairman of the Parliamentary committee for Defense, who also happened to be best friends with the (Georgian) president.

Were you tormented by moral doubts?

For me it was a simple question. Every kopeck that goes to the struggle against the regime is sacred.

Is there ANY money that you would turn down?

The issue isn’t with the money, but whether there are strings attached. In our case we didn’t think there would be. This story was a two-way street. We were attempting to separate them (the Georgians) from their money in return for the opportunity to make them feel themselves participants of a broader process. This was very important to them, because this was Targamadze’s livelihood. That’s the image he has: That he can create revolutions anywhere he pleases, simply by snapping his fingers – and into the streets pour 10,000 people. What Givi wanted from us was disorders – any kind of disorders. They told us: “If you work hard, then we’ll get you a trip to London and we’ll provide your party with money.” It’s possible that we were simply bullshitting one another. I don’t regard any of this as out of the ordinary. You know they call me an unprincipled scoundrel, but I don’t think I am. Our difficult financial situation forces us to turn to people who, in other circumstances, would probably be our enemies. Instead, we become tactical allies. It goes without saying that our goals were different from Targamadze’s, but we came together in that narrow space, we tried to do something, well, and here is the result. I didn’t betray my own soul, I was honest with Seryoga and Lenya, I told them right away who these people were. I also told Givi that he shouldn’t have any illusions that we would be kissing his ass later on. I don’t consider myself to be a traitor.

No doubt, taking into account my political image, I should have held out to the bitter end, done my 10 years, and lost my health and my teeth. Maybe that’s what I should have done. I’ve been in politics for 15 years, and when I hear this kind of reproach from people who have only been going to protests for 2 months, with nothing worse than diarrhea threatening them – well, this seems strange to me. Or when the lawyers start to lecture me on how to make revolutions. Violetta Volkova was trying to convince my lawyer Lavrov: Don’t worry, everything will be okay if you do as we tell you. Tell Lebedev to deny everything, and he’s guaranteed political asylum in America. The deliveries of Georgian wine – that was some bullshit that we thought up along with Volkova, and now she is denying that we agreed on this together. Volkova and Feigin: They are shyster lawyers, they are grave robbers, not decent lawyers who try to get their clients off.

Going back to the meeting… You said you sometimes taped the Georgians on your dictaphone. Did you ever photograph them on your camera?

No. There would be no point. I needed the dictaphone, in case they ever tried to do to us what they did to the Belorussians, then maybe I could have had some leverage. The story with the Belorussians told me that people act in their own national interests. Our interests coincided with theirs in only one point: They hate Putin, and we hate Putin. It wasn’t like we trusted them further than we could throw them.

The reason I asked about the camera was because after your arrest your friends found a hidden camera in your flat that was sewed into a polo T-shirt. Did you use that camera?

That camera was purchased after the Duma elections of 2007 for the election monitors. At that time people weren’t allowed to photograph openly at the polling stations, so we had to get around that. I bought the camera at VDNKh [big Moscow outdoor market/exhibition centre], it was a camera shaped like a button.

So, where is the DVR from it [the secret spy button-camera]?

I never found it myself. At one point it existed, it was part of the mechanism of the camera, naturally. And I even used it once. When I was photographing some of the actions of the art group “Voina”: “The Death of a Tajik”. I had a regular camera in my hands, and a secret one as a spare.

I saw the film, you were wearing a plaid shirt, not a polo.

What’s the difference? The camera is in the shape of a button.

In other words, you re-sewed the button (onto the other shirt)?

So it would seem. I’m trying to remember… Yes, I’m pretty sure I used it then. You can unhook it and re-hook it.

Did you use at all during the elections?

No, not even once. And somehow the DVR got misplaced. It all got lost in a heap, with the clothes. I forgot all about the camera. In any case, what does it matter, because the pictures that were taken for “Anatomy of a Protest” were not done with this (particular button) camera.

What kind of camera did they use in Minsk?

In my opinion, it must have been inside the television set.

If it wasn’t you who secretly taped the meeting, then who?

There are several possibilities. I lean towards the opinion that it was the Georgians themselves who taped the meeting, for a “just in case” scenario. I even told Seryoga: Do you realize that they are taping us? He replied, “I realize this.” But we didn’t believe that they would ever betray us. To this day I don’t understand how this could have happened, and I don’t necessarily insist that it was the Georgians who did it. Naturally, they could have had second thoughts. They got some money from somewhere, then after 6 May nothing substantial happened, and the money was already spent. So maybe they decided to give us up, so as not to have to answer to us again. There was a certain personage, Anatoly Motkin, an emissary of Berezovsky, he was in the loop of everything that was going on, the Georgians trusted him completely. He is a real doer. But maybe this person could have been playing his own game. He was familiar with all the flats where we used to meet. He could have (set up the cameras). Anything is possible.

How did this tape get back to Russia?

According to one version, it came via London. We actually don’t know. Givi could have used the tape to prove to (Andrei) Borodin [former president of Bank of Moscow who received political asylum in Great Britain) that he was working with us. And Givi told us that they had already received half a million from Borodin. However, I don’t believe that the money Givi gave us came from Borodin. Because it was only later that he mentioned Borodin. The hell with it, who knows?

Did the money belong to them personally?

No, of course not, that was too much. Georgian government money? Hardly, they would have to account for it. Basically, Givi told me that he already had half a million. And that he had strong connections via Berezovsky with (several) fugitive businessmen, Borodin’s name was mentioned, along with several others, I don’t recall. I even had a trip planned. Borodin had supposedly promised to raise 10 million. The three of us planned to go to London to talk about money sometime after August, but then we put it off, and then, well, we were all arrested.

What motivated you to talk to Givi about blowing up the Trans-Siberian railway?

Well, you have to know Lenya (Razvozzhayev). He is a very impatient lad, and he took all this money close to heart. At one time he was well off, and the memory of those fat years never left him. He was tormented by the fact that he lived off his wife. His goal in life was to become a professional revolutionary, so that he wouldn’t have to think about business, and so that his relatives wouldn’t have to live from stealing. He wanted a guaranteed income.

So, what was the deal with the Trans-Siberian…?

Well, let’s say that he took it close to heart that it was necessary to separate the Georgians from their money. In my opinion, he tried to appear even more crazy than he actually is. It goes without saying that it is impossible to blow up the Trans-Siberian, or to close it down. In the same way, a lot of the things that the Georgians were proposing were also divorced from reality. For example, they suggested that (we) cover the FSB building with Valerian so that the cats would get drunk and come running. Or launch a balloon with Putin’s face on it, and shoot at it. There was also an idea to provoke Kadyrov’s bodyguards by blocking his cortège. To rent or steal lorries carrying buses and use them to barricade our meetings from the police.

Through whom did the money come into Russia?

All the money at that time came solely through me. I was in charge of all the ledger books. The people in the know were me, Seryoga, Lenya and Alimych. We had a very firm agreement not to let anyone else into the loop.

How much money was promised, and how much delivered?

It was agreed on $35,000 per month. Not a huge sum, but for lefties a determining one. They gave me the money in installments: At the entrance to the metro I would buy a pay-go phone with a SIM card, learn the time and place of our meeting, a man would approach me, I would show him my passport, and he would give me the money in an envelope.

How did you split the money between the three of you?

Each of us had a salary of around 50,000 rubles, but most of the money I would hand over in dollars to Lenya for the protest actions. Seryoga preferred not to take any money.

So, in April and May you received $35,000 per month, and then…?

In June, after the 6 May events, we received $90,000. This money was used to buy cars for Razvozzhayev and Nastya Udaltsova. Some was also spent for leaflets, around 70,000 rubles for each new issue, not to mention banners, HQ expenses, plus Lenya was building a team at the time. Trips. I used what was left to pay for my drinks in the pubs. I always had money on me.

When was the final instalment?

In August, $42,000.

And how much is left?


Currently Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev, and Targamadze are denying your version of events. Who is lying?

They are lying. But each for a different reason. Well, Seryoga is mouthing our original version of the story: That there were these businessmen, that we were talking about importing wine, yada yada. Well, he is the leader after all. He has to stand defiant to the very end. Although I personally don’t see the point. Targamadze is lying because this is a huge blow to his reputation. Razvozzhayev, on the other hand, wrote a full confession. My confession confirms his.

In your criminal case, along with the names of Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev, and Aimaletdinov, there are also a few unnamed figures. Did you help to establish who these people are?

All the unnamed persons can live in peace. I used my deal with the prosecution and told them everything that was of interest to them, and nothing more.

At the time when they showed an ad for “Anatomy of a Protest” on NTV, you were on vacation in France. Why did you return?

Because I was an idiot. I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just a film. Why shouldn’t I go back?” I simply didn’t believe (what would happen next).

Do you know that shortly after your arrest, Aimaletdinov went to your friends and told them that you had been spying on oppositionist activists for Yakemenko back in 2008?

Yes, I know that.

Well, is is true?

No, it’s not true. Aimaletdinov and I were always friends. Not one person who knows him would tell you that he’s a normal guy. But he has a very interesting brain, at times he played the role of my muse. And at times, (the role of) my servant. Well, in short, he simply carried out a series of assignments. And, from what we know now, the Investigation put a lot of pressure on Alimych, and for him this was like psychological torture. He came along with us to the Georgians simply to party and carouse. For him, these were like party trips. And suddenly they turned out to be serious business, and besides, he didn’t suspect that they could put me in jail.

So, what does Yakemenko have to do with any of this?

The way I understand it is that he (Yakemenko) decided to pour dirt on me, because he decided that I was the source of all his problems. Also I had explained that he had contacts with the Georgians after my arrest. Maybe they promised him something if he tried to protect the Georgians. And I do have that one stain in my biography, and it’s an obvious one.

Supposedly he (Yakemenko) showed your correspondence with Roman Verbitsky, a member of the “Nashi” [pro-Putin youth] movement who was responsible for the bully-boy stuff. To be sure, he showed it (the correspondence) just once, and nobody saved a copy. Are you acquainted with Verbitsky?

Yes, I know “Sharky” very well, he was the chief of the goon squad in “Walking Together.” Before I was fired, I used to see him in his office. After that, occasionally at opposition activities, which he used to attend for some reason unknown to me. We would greet each other in a friendly manner. Aside from that, I never had any contact with him.

Who else from “Walking” did you have contacts with after you were fired (from that group)?

I don’t want to say their names, why complicate their lives now? Most of them aren’t involved in politics any more.

In your apartment they found a printed account book with the names of various activists, and their salaries. The names Lyaskin, Velmakin, a few other people. What was the purpose of that book?

Over the course of the years there were various accounts. It was probably an accounting for monthly expenses, or maybe for some specific activity. I had to account to our sponsors.

Did you keep an accurate account for the Georgians?

Mostly via email. Occasionally I would print out a hard-copy and give it to someone by hand. Mostly I would send it through the mail, of course.

After you cut the deal with the investigation and left remand prison for house arrest, many oppositionists decided that you work for the FSB, or for Centre E. They call you a grass. Did you collaborate with any of these organizations?

No, I didn’t collaborate. To be sure, a couple of times Lyosha “Smiley” tried to strike up a conversation with me, like he did with all the other activists. But that’s it. However, I wish to emphasize the following: During the course of several months before Udaltsov’s meeting with Targamadze, Seryoga (Udaltsov), with whom at the time I had very poor relations, I said many unflattering things about him, and he about me – anyhow, Seryoga, at a meeting of the “Left Front”, announced in front of everybody: “Lebedev is a grass.” They asked him, “Where do you get that from?”, to which he replied, “Well, I can’t prove it, it’s just my suspicion.” And then a few months after that he is driving to Minsk with me, to meet the head of the Georgian secret service. How do you figure that? It says a lot about the value of these rumors about me supposedly being an informer. Many people, who are shrieking now about the origins of my money, took this same money (from me) and never asked where it came from, and now they’re suddenly all agog about it.

What are you plans while you are in the labor colony?

I plan to learn Spanish. I’ll do a lot of reading. When I was in Lefortovo I read all of Gorky. Now I’ll read somebody else. They also make you work there. So I’ll work.

Are you sorry for what you did?

I will be perfectly frank with you. I have spent the last 14 years of my life planning mass disorders. In the eyes of the law, of course, I carried out anti-social acts. We were condemned from the very beginning. I understand the logic of the government and, from the point of view of a person who has been rammed up against the wall, I repent. Those OMON [riot police] who got hit on the head with stones – they shouldn’t have been hit on the head with them. I didn’t have anything to do with those (particular) acts, so I can’t repent for those, but all the same I do bear some responsibility. I created the conditions for these acts. The peaceful protest that we had planned did not occur. But it was wrong to throw stones at the police, our supposed future electorate. The government hires these poor fools, so that they get beaten up and spat in the face. They (the government) pits these two forces together, both repressed by the regime, and the regime comes out on top. Any person who throws a stone at a cop is willy-nilly a provocateur, even if he is doing it out of noble motives.

What can you tell people who are just learning about your friendship with Targamadze and saying to themselves: “My god, THESE are the people we were with in December?”

I should advise all the activists who take to the streets not because it is a fashionable lifestyle, but to be prepared for spending a long term in prison, or even getting killed for their views. I wasn’t really prepared for that. We all went along with this, because we thought it would be better that way. We didn’t see any other way. And if we had been more cautious, then we could have won. But we weren’t able to pull it off. Everything we did only concerns us three, this is our tragedy, and we will bear the punishment. And you (others) who were honorable people, will stay that way.

Do you plan to continue political activity after your release from prison?

I’m not sure. I guess it wouldn’t make sense for me to continue, because the situation, in which I turned out to be the biggest scoundrel, is convenient for so many sides.

Translator notes

This article was originally translated by “yalensis” at Mark Chapman’s blog, and was “spiced up” with British slang by “Moscow Exile” commenting over at the Guardian.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.