In a letter written from his prison in Moscow, Artyom scribbled a swarm of hearts and what looks like a potato with four legs. “This is a cat.” His lover, Alexandra, reads the message again and bursts out laughing. She just had the same clumsy design tattooed on her arm, as she wanted to “have a piece of Artiom forever” on her body. Unless, she says still laughing, that one does not “cut the skin to him”.
In September, Artiom Kamardine, 32, was arrested and, he says, raped by police. His crime? Reciting a poem against the offensive in Ukraine. Since then, Alexandra Popova, 28, has clung to small symbols so as not to sink. A few months ago, this couple thought they had the future ahead of them. But after the intervention of Russian troops in Ukraine, they were caught up in the repressive machine which accelerated in Russia.
For Artyom and Alexandra, it was their opposition to Vladimir Putin that plunged them into hell. On September 26, hooded police burst into their apartment: they are looking for Artiom, whom they take to a separate room. To his lawyer, he claims to have been beaten up and sodomized with the bar of a dumbbell. Alexandra says that the police brutalized her, sprinkled her cheeks and her mouth with strong glue, and threatened to “gang rape”. In the aftermath, Artiom is forced to present an apology filmed and broadcast on the Internet. A common punishment in several authoritarian regimes, but rare in Moscow.