17 November 2023

“Paper leaflets are probably worth less”. Interview with the woman whose complaint led to Skochilenko’s arrest

The criminal case against Sasha Skochilenko began when a client at a Perekrestok supermarket saw a price label saying: “The Russian Army destroyed an art school in Mariupol. About 400 people were hiding there from the shelling.” The woman called the police.

The investigation committee then opened a criminal case over “distributing fakes” and found Sasha. The prosecutor demanded eight years in prison.

Paperpaper.ru talked to the 76-year-old, who first discovered the price label and filed a statement to the police, about the consequences of her complaint, Sasha’s sentence, and why the retired woman thought the text on the tag was a lie.

“I don’t know why the hell would someone do that.” The woman’s reaction to the labels

— Are you following the case of Sasha Skochilenko, opened after your complaint about a price tag at the supermarket?

— I’m being demonized out of proportion. Me, a “snitch”? I’m proud of what I did. Isn’t it a real disgrace to see a crime and just turn away?

— Sasha Skochilenko is about to get sentenced. The prosecution demanded eight years in penal colony.

I didn’t ask her to post those tags, did I? What do you want me to say, that she’s a good girl? That she should be forgiven?

— I am just wondering if your attitude to this “crime” changed after you saw who was being prosecuted.

— Why should I care who was the idiot? I actually don’t think she’s a criminal. Or rather I didn’t before this whole brouhaha started.

— And by brouhaha you mean what exactly?

— People started posting nonsense on the internet, then there’s this clique that comes to the hearings. My opinion of that? I’m outraged to see how people protecting Russia are being spit upon. By people who live in Russia, even if they may not consider themselves Russian.

You don’t like it here in Russia? Get the hell out of here, then. No one’s keeping you. The fewer, the better cheer. Go live where they’ll feed you. Go. But don’t you dare demonize those protecting Russia – that’s just vile. If you share this position, then you’re also vile.

Speaking of Sasha Skochilenko, why should I care? I never met her. But I saw her page, I mean, my son did, he said: “oh, well, check it out if you want to, but it’s already making me sick.” That’s what I think about all that.

— You said you didn’t think of her as a criminal at first.

— I thought it was just stupid, if you’re really interested in my reaction. When I saw this vile thing [the label], I took it down right away on instinct. I broke out in sweat and walked away, I didn’t want to have a heart attack! My opinion hasn’t changed. Vile is vile. If you’re that stupid, tough luck.

If she wanted to curry favor with someone… I don’t know why the hell would someone do that. So clearly stupid. Why would someone do that? Maybe you could explain? I can’t wrap my head around such people.

“I’m also a pacifist.” On her reaction of Sasha’s actions

— Yes, I understand very well, and she herself explained in great detail why she did that.

— Explain it to me. I am curious. At 76, although you may think it’s funny…

— I don’t think there’s anything funny about it. She wanted as many people who didn’t share her views to find out about what was going on, in her opinion, at the frontline. The information is what her friends in Kyiv told her in texts.

— I will never believe that she actually believed that. I never will. There are idiots, there are double idiots. But this is just too much.

— Why do you think so?

— The information is so obviously false. Especially as this [the label designs] was distributed on the internet. I did my investigation later on: there were several label designs with different numbers of purported casualties. How many casualties had there been in Donetsk in eight years prior? Why hadn’t she been outraged by that?

— I think she probably had. But when she was posting the labels different things were already happening. She says she’s a pacifist and was outraged by all victims.

— I’m also a pacifist. But I realize you have to use force sometimes to do good.

I’ve my own opinion of Ukrainians and ethnic solidarity. I grew up in Baku between 5 and 19 years old. So I know what ethnic solidarity and brotherhood of nations are worth. My two cousins are half khokhols [Russian derogatory term for Ukrainians]. My cousin lives near Kyiv. 20 kilometers away from the airport that was the first to be hit. We all worry about him.

My younger brother’s wife is Ukrainian. They’ve been married for 48 years. Last year I asked her: are you Russian or Ukrainian? It hadn’t been my concern for 47 years. So, as far as my attitude to Ukrainians go, I worry a lot. I am a pacifist. It breaks my heart when I hear that so many Ukrainians were hit: our victims, their victims, they’re all equal. So I’m saying: the bastards are making Russian people on both sides fight. I’m thinking that the majority of victims didn’t want to fight Russia in the first place, they’d live just fine in Russia.

As for these leaflets [price label designs with anti-war messages], my son then showed me on the internet that they were posted in Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk also. Purposefully distributed.

— You have your strong opinions, and Sasha has her own. Can you tell me what makes you so absolutely sure that the information was false, that there were no civilian deaths?

— There are always civilian deaths. It can always happen that you’re coming back home and then someone finds you on the stairs with a hole in your head. Or you’re waiting for a bus and some asshole drives the wrong way and hits you. What do you mean by civilian deaths? I know that our guys don’t do that. I am supporting Russian troops because they’re Russian.

— Why were you so outraged by the message about the shelled art school? You said you nearly had a heart attack.

— Our guys were blamed. By “our guys” I mean both Russians and Ukrainians. That was what outraged me. But I don’t think that double idiots like that exist.

What’s surprising, though, is that the other people were just fined initially. She [Skochilenko] must’ve been thinking that she’d get away with a slap on the wrist and make herself famous. As for the sympathy for her, I don’t feel any. Especially with this whole campaign and the clique that follows her. Oh my, some kind of crowd! Too bad that young people these days have been brought up as non-Russian in terms of their convictions. In terms of nationality, also.

By the way, I don’t lament the Soviets. Lenin, Stalin, I’m no fan of them. Stalin, in my opinion, was a pock-marked villain. So don’t suspect me of anything like that.

“It’s war, you know!” On her reputation as a snitch

— So you’re offended by people calling you a snitch?

— Sure I am. It’s an outrage. Someone put it right: she never told anyone that Skochilenko posted the tags. She just said the tags were there. So I did: I found the managers and I asked them to remove the vile things.

— If the manager just told you, “we’ll remove it right away”, would you still go to the police?

— No, why would I? I’ve other things to do. It’s just I didn’t want that dirt to be there.

— I’m still wondering what was your objection: that Russia could not bomb the art school and other civilian objects or that one should keep silent about it even if it could?

— Any building could’ve been hit. But I have my doubts that there were 400 people in the art school.

— There was a shelter in the basement, I believe. That’s why people were hiding there.

— Ok, it was shelled. So what? A building is hit. Who could’ve known about the 400 people there? It’s not like a pilot drops bombs on people’s heads individually. They fired, they hit something.

— You think that this isn’t worth highlighting?

— It’s war, you know!

— But can you understand why Sasha was so upset that she cried and wanted other people to…?

— I don’t believe she was upset. And also, did this Sasha think about how Ukraine didn’t exist in the first place, three quarters of it being Novorossiya and not some Ukraine?

— I don’t believe she thinks this is the case.

—Yeah, exactly.

“You don’t get this sort of sentence for something like that.” On her position and Sasha’s sentence

— Do you watch Russian government TV – the First Channel, Russia TV?

— We don’t have a TV at home. I watch YouTube because it gives me a choice.

— Can you tell me what you watch?

Tsargrad, Delyagin’s channel. Also Satanovsky. Great folks. What do I like? From my experience in Baku I remember we all said that Russians were the worst. All other nations help each other out, except Russians.

— What is your education?

— Vocational school. I used to be a bookkeeper.

— Have you informed the police about other cases of “anti-Russian messages” or something of this sort?

— I have not.

— And for how long have you held the opinion that Ukraine did not exist as a country? And that this war was also started by Ukraine?

— I know my history alright. I considered going to college to study history and actually I’m fond of the Decembrists. I know history. I know Crimea is Russian. It wasn’t annexed, it was taken back. That’s the only good thing that Putin did.

— Who did you vote for at presidential elections?

— I don’t vote, it’s all a farce. You said you were interested in my opinion. Here’s my opinion. And I don’t believe that Sasha is as stupid as she pretends.

— You do understand that people of a different generation may have different views of things?

— My son was born in 1982. He was never in the army. But when it all started in the Donbas, he said: I’ll go if I have to. He’s also your generation.

— Before talking to you, I spoke to Sasha’s mother, Nadezhda. She’s now expecting her daughter to be sentenced to eight years in prison. What would you say to her?

— I would ask how her daughter ended up holding this sort of opinion. If you can even call it “opinion”. Frankly, though, I think that if [Daria] Trepova gets 15 years, the paper labels are probably worth less. I was actually surprised. I told the prosecutors from the start: that’s stupid, no? You don’t get this sort of sentence for something like that. Should’ve just given her a thrashing and let her go.

Что еще почитать:

  • We Asked Teachers How Propaganda Affects Studies and What Teenagers Think. Here are Four Observations on How Schools are Slowing Down Patriotic Initiatives
  • “Do not retreat — it brings us closer to the future.” The remarkable story of activist and prisoner Pavel Krisevich, as told by himself

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