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Трудности перемотки - 2

Арест в Чермене
© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

“Зачем вы вообще приехали в Россию? Живете в богатой, красивой стране. Вот и живите там дальше!” Это замечание от миграционного служащего вновь обрывает все внутри меня. Я объясняю еще раз, что мир больше, чем твоя собственная страна, но офицер продолжает непонимающе качать головой. С полудня до шести вечера мы парализовали работу девяти сотрудников миграционной службы, полиции и ФСБ. Все они, кроме агентов ФСБ, жалуются, что голодны и пропустили обед по нашей вине.

День начинался вполне невинно. Для нашей будущей книги мы хотели раскопать пару историй в селе Чермен. Как водится, начали с сельсовета. Глава приняла нас с распростертыми объятиями, в то же время попросив помощника позвонить в ФСБ. Менее чем через пять минут появился неуклюжий, тучный полицейский. Он попросил нас проследовать за ним в ближайшее управление ФСБ в Октябрьском. Мы отказались. “У нас есть все необходимые документы — аккредитации прессы, визы, регистрации. Мы никуда не поедем”.

Полчаса спустя появляется еще один представитель власти. Он вежливо просит нас проехать с ним, прояснить кое-какие вещи. Это займет всего 5 минут и на своей машине он вернет нас обратно. Сельский глава больше не хочет, чтобы Роб ее снимал.

“Я уверена, ФСБ это не одобрит”, — шепчет она. Я взрываюсь. “Да ладно, вы выбраны демократическим путем, местными людьми. И вас нельзя снимать?” В итоге, она соглашается.

Арнольд и Роб с главой Чермена, которая не хотела фотографироваться
© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

Мы садимся в ожидающий нас полицейский джип. Это начало 6-часового бюрократического марафона. Нас доставляют в полицейский участок и допрашивают силами нескольких агентов и пограничников. Прямо за нами, за решеткой, молча изнемогает женщина в стильных шлепанцах. ФСБ задает вопросы сухо и профессионально, верит нам и обещает выдать пропуск, чтобы мы работали свободно.

Пограничники предъявляют закон, который запрещает иностранцам въезжать в нестабильный Пригородный район Северной Осетии и хотят оштрафовать нас. Посмеиваясь, держа в уме устное разрешение ФСБ, мы направляемся в управление миграционной службы во Владикавказе.

Россия — загадочная страна. Получение визы и пресс акредитации ровным счетом ничего не значит. Где бы вы не находились, вы должны зарегистрироваться в местной миграционной службе. Если вы остановились в отеле- это достаточно простой процесс. Если вы спите в частном доме, вы вынуждены мучаться часами на местной почте и в банке. Мы прочувствовали идиотизм этого механизма в Сочи в 2009, когда уплатили наш первый штраф за неправильную регистрацию.

Итак, мы обвинялись в нарушении закона, с которым уже сталкивались в этом году в Дагестане. Мы уже знали, что запрещается останавливаться в приграничных зонах. Но в Дагестане мы наткнулись на зону проведения контртеррористической операции, которая может быть объявлена внезапно в любое время. Никто заранее не скажет тебе, где именно может быть такая зона, поскольку это секретная информация. Не смотря на это, задержание в таком районе может повлечь за собой внушительный штраф и даже депортацию. Штраф, который в нашем случае может похоронить проект.

Арест в Дагестане, в зоне проведения контртеррористической операции
© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

Затем, постановление №470 от 4 июля 1992 года. Районы, куда иностранцы могут или не могут быть допущены, в общем-то четко определены. Например, северо-западная граница начинается у бассейна. Оттуда граница тянется на 80 метров в северо-западном направлении и в 8 метрах от моста она поварачивает налево и отходит на 3 метра от стены на протяжении следующих 135 метров. Что-то вроде этого. Серьезно. http://base.garant.ru/104408. Прочитайте последнюю главу — согласно поправке от 2006 года, иностранцы в Северной Осетии могут свободно перемещаться только в больших городах и по основным дорогам. Таким образом, пограничник был прав. Он смотрел на нас с триумфом. Сникнув, мы вступили в бесконечный процесс копирования документов, подписания бумаг... Ок, назначьте нам штраф, чтобы мы могли вернуться назад к работе. Мы держали в уме пропуск от ФСБ. Когда главный пограничник услышал о ФСБ, он обещал снизить штраф, если ФСБ позвонит ему. Но человека из ФСБ больше не существовало. Нам не выписали штраф, но пограничники потащили нас в суд, что увеличивало риск депортации, так как именно судья может депортировать иностранца.

Мы отправились в суд в 5-30 вечера. Он уже был закрыт. Чудесным образом мы получили наши паспорта обратно и были отправлены в свой отель.

Суд назначил нам штраф в 6 тысяч рублей. Судья покритиковал иммиграционную службу за то, что притащили нас в суд. “Вы что, реально хотели депортировать их за это?” — спросил он. “Если хотели оштрафовать, то могли бы сделать это сами.” Мы потратили весь день в суде. Всего мы потеряли два драгоценных дня. Обещанный ФСБ пропуск так и не материализовался.

© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

"Why have you even come to Russia? You live in a rich, beautiful country. Earn your living there!" This remark from an immigration officer makes my heart sink. I explain once again that the world is bigger than your own country, which is perhaps easier to understand for a Dutchman than a Russian, but the officer continues to shake his head in incomprehension. From midday until six o'clock in the evening we have kept more than nine different officers from the immigration service, police and FSB security service occupied. All of them – except the always professional FSB agents – complain that they are hungry and have missed lunch thanks to us.

The day begins innocently enough. For our upcoming book we want to disentangle the stories in the village of Chermen. Where better to start than the lovely little village hall? The mayor receives us with open arms, but at the same time asks her assistant to call the FSB. Less than five minutes into the interview an oafish, portly cop arrives. He asks us to accompany him to the FSB office in the rayon capital Oktyabrskaya. "No," we say. "We have everything we need, press accreditation, visa, registration. We're staying here." We know those Russian five minutes, which always last longer for an absurd conversation. A terrible waste of time, and hey – we are with the mayor! We feel safe.

Half an hour later, a senior official appears. He politely asks if we would please come with him to clear things up. It will really only take five minutes, in our car, we will bring you back. The mayor doesn't want Rob to take any more photos of her. "I’m sure the FSB wouldn’t allow it," she stammers. I explode. "Come on, you’re a democratically elected mayor, you’ve campaigned here. And now you can't be photographed?" She finally agrees.

© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

We get into the waiting police jeep. It is the beginning of a six-hour bureaucracy marathon. We are taken to a police station and questioned by various agents and immigration officials, while next to us – behind bars – a woman in charming slippers languishes silently. We respond firmly: this time everything really has to be in order. The FSB interviews us succinctly and professionally, trusts us and promises us a permit so we can work freely. The immigration service brings up a law that prohibits foreigners from entering the unstable Prigorodny district and still wants to fine us. Laughing, with a verbal FSB permit to fall back on, we take the bus to the immigration office in Vladikavkaz.

Russia is a strange country. It can't be said often enough. After you have applied for a visa and press accreditation, you're nowhere near done. Wherever you stay, you have to register with the local immigration office. If you are staying in hotels this is a fairly straightforward process. If you sleep in private homes, you are subjected to tortuous hours in a local post office and bank. We fell foul of this process in Sochi in 2009, where we paid our first fine for registering incorrectly.

Then there is a law which we were introduced to this year in Dagestan. We already knew that you are not allowed to stop in border areas. But in Dagestan you also encounter spontaneous KTO areas, where a counter-terrorist operation is being carried out that day, month or indefinitely. No one can tell you in advance where they are because they are covert after all. Even so, an arrest in one of these areas can result in a significant fine and even deportation from Russia. An expensive penalty, which in this case would force us to discontinue our project. A correspondent would lose his livelihood. Dagestan was the second entry in our file with the immigration service.

© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project

Then you have resolution number 470, from 4 July 1992. The areas to which foreigners can and cannot go are particularly well-defined. Such as: the northwest point begins at the swimming pool. From there the border runs for 80 metres in a north-westerly direction, and 8 metres before the footbridge it turns left and extends 3 metres away from a wall for 135 metres. Something like that. Really. (Translate this link http://base.garant.ru/104408 with Google Translate) And read the last section: according to an amendment from 2006, foreigners in North Ossetia are only allowed to move freely in the larger cities and on major through roads. Not a conflict zone; almost everywhere is off-limits. The immigration officer was right. He looks at us triumphantly. Sighing and now less self-confident, we go through the endless process of copying documents, reports, etc. Just give us the fine so that we can get back to work, we say, the FSB permit in the back of our minds. When the head of immigration hears about the FSB permit, he says: have the FSB call me and I’ll drop the charge. But the FSB man is no longer available. We are not given a fine but immigration wants to take us to court. This means that the risk of deportation is increasing, because only a judge can deport foreigners.

We go to the court at 5.30pm. It is already closed. Miraculously, we get our passports back and are allowed to go to our hotel. The embassy rings to say that they are ready to provide consular assistance if we are deported.

Just to recap: we are detained in Chermen, where the protagonist of our next book lives. We have already been detained three times, earlier this year and last year. A look at our press accreditation had always been enough. But now the mayor has involved higher powers and unfortunately the immigration service has the law on its side.

It all has to do with a deeply ingrained distrust. People often laughingly call us spies. Laughingly, but I know of few other countries where the word spy or foreign agent is used so often, whether as a joke or not. It is certainly a relic of the Cold War or even earlier. I know that during the Cold War, Russians were not allowed to visit the Dutch naval port. But people thought the ban was so ridiculous that access was granted again fairly early in the 1970s. The reasoning was that if the Russians were not allowed to go there themselves, there were other ways of getting information. Here, the arrival of a foreigner in even the most insignificant village is enough to start asking paranoid questions. Foreigners mean trouble, people think, trouble that they are only too happy to create themselves. It may sound rather bitter, but after several years of travelling here, the thrill of arrests and conversations about spies have lost some of their appeal. Please let us do our job, we say to the officials. But they insist on enforcing their ridiculous laws, too afraid to take responsibility.

Afterword: the court ordered us to pay 6,000 roubles. Rob made an impassioned and cogent appeal against our conviction. The judge criticised the immigration service for bringing us to court. "Do you really want to deport them, for something like this?" he asked. "If you only wanted a fine, you should have imposed that yourself." We spent from 10am to 5pm in court. In total, we lost two precious days. The promised FSB permit never materialised.

Rob's appeal:

'We are Dutch correspondents with the special accreditation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work in the Russian Federation. We always try to work according the law. Therefore we would like to apologize for breaking law number 155.

We have been to Chermen several times. In the last week officials have checked our papers twice in Chermen. No policeman told us about a special permission.

Although this law is meant for foreigners, it is only available in Russian language. There is a question inside law 155 towards Ministries of Foreign Affairs to bring this law under the attention of embassies and counsellor posts in Russia. There is nothing written about this law on the website of the Dutch embassy in Moscow.

We severely try to avoid that we end up in situations like this. Therefore we always send an official letter to authorities to announce that we work in their territory. We also did this before we arrived in North Ossetia. Usually a press secretary warns foreign journalists if there are special rules or restrictions for foreign correspondents. We didn’t get any reply.

We realize that we broke law number 155, but we believe that it is also important to ask ourselves how far we are responsible for breaking this law. Law 155 restricts foreigners to move in the public space. Visiting a village is not something we expected to be illegal. Therefore we believe that there is a responsibility for authorities to make foreigners aware of this rule.

The fact that law 155 is only available in Russian language, that there is nothing written on the website of foreign embassies, that the press secretary of the North Ossetian government didn’t inform us about these special rules regarding restricted area’s in North Ossetia, that local policemen and even the mayor of Chermen do not know about this law and that there are no signs in the public space about restricted area’s makes it difficult for us to know about law 155.

We know that we broke law 155 but we kindly ask the court to take all of the above into consideration before finalizing the verdict.'

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