Working in the news sphere, over the time you get more indifferent to the destiny of political prisoners.
"Another one" – you say wearily in the morning reading some news about another raid at another opposition activist's home.
This time, I happened to know the 14th person arrested in connection with a mass riots case (also known as the "Moscow Case") of July 27. On August 12, a 20-year-old student of Kosygin Russian State University Valery Kostenok was arrested for two months for "throwing a plastic bottle towards a National Guard of Russia ("Rosgvardia") soldier causing him moral and physical harm."
Last time I saw Valery was in April. A candidate for election to Moscow City Duma from the Yabloko party, Kirill Goncharov asked me to come for a meeting to give a piece of advice for their campaign office about social media marketing. Kostenok attended that meeting as well. It finished quickly. After that, I had to spend two hours walking around, so Valery joined me.
In general, we talked about the upcoming election and Moscow politics. He told me what he would like to do during the electoral campaign and some details about working as a courier. At a certain point I asked him: - What would you like to do with your life for the next two years? Who would you like to be? He answered immediately: - I want to be a politician. The title "Russian Politician" with a mock verification mark is still set in his Facebook profile.
"He has always called himself a politician, and in this sense the political growth was very important for him" – Kirill Goncharov says in a conversation with me. The non-registered candidate looks tired. He says he hasn't slept the whole night because he was preparing a package for Kostenok staying in a pre-trial detention facility. The parents of Valery have gone abroad, so they didn't attend the trial.
"Valera is an ambitious guy. This spring I suggested he should participate in my electoral campaign – Goncharov says – Before I had a cold, working relationship with him. But during the campaign we truly became friends. He was living for this campaign, he literally stayed in the office to sleep, he turned out to be a passionate man to whom Russia is very important, Russia without violated laws and injustice. It was extremely disappointing for him to face the system itself when he found lies and false in it".
The story of Kostenok is quite typical. Quite typical among several other staff members of the political campaigns of independent candidates who were arrested as well. Like [another arrested campaigner] Alexey Minyaylo, Valery was a typical volunteer gathering signatures for his candidate. One of the first videoreports about rejected signatures I saw was made by him – the signature of his grandmother was rendered invalid.
"What should I do to become a politician?" - Kostenok asked me in a food court in the mall. I told him that he should get more experience of participating in electoral campaigns.
Perhaps, I should have told him something else. Maybe something about the raids at political activists' homes that I regularly read about in the morning news.