“She is a couch fighter” Russian woman Irina Vikkholm will be tried for a tweet about Lukashenka. She disappeared three months ago, and then unexpectedly was found in a Belarusian pre-trial detention center

At the end of May 2021, Russian woman Irina Vikkholm (69 subscribers) devoted her Twitter posts  mainly to Alexander Lukashenko. There were practically no own tweets: Vikholm simply retweeted journalistic articles and statements of opposition bloggers criticizing Lukashenka. Some even compared him to bin Laden.

One of the last tweets of a 58-year-old woman is a repost of her own publication in LiveJournal on May 23, 2021. It refers to the  landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, after which the Belarusian security forces detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

Vikholm called her publication “Another crime of Lukashenka: an act of state aviation piracy”. This text is a reprint of an article by the BBC Russian Service about the situation with the airliner: it states that the Greek Foreign Ministry called the incident an “act of state piracy”. On her own behalf, Vikholm added only three words to the title: “Another crime of Lukashenka”.

Shortly after this post, Twitter and other social networks of Irina Vikkholm stopped updating.

“Citizen V.”

The further fate of Irina Vikkholm became known only three months later. On September 1, the prosecutor’s office of Belarus reported that a criminal case on “public libel” against Alyaksandr Lukashenka had been sent to the court and “foreign citizen V.” was accused of it. The prosecutor’s office clarified that on May 23, “citizen V.” published a tweet with “slanderous information” about air piracy by Lukashenka. And she did it “wishing to harm the authority of the state.” For this, “citizen V.”, who does not admit her guilt, faces up to five years in prison.

The prosecutor’s office did not name the woman’s surname, but on September 5, the Belarusian human rights center Viasna reported that, most likely, it was Irina Vikkholm. Human rights activists clarified that since the end of May, the Russian woman was in one of the Minsk pre-trial detention centers, although she was recently transferred to an isolation ward in Brest. In Vesna they told Meduza that the woman probably has no close relatives; her arrest became known by chance: “We have a problem with those who have no relatives. They cannot report themselves from the conclusion. We learn from those leaving the prisons or from random people. Some of the Russians visit our chat and wrote about her there. “

What exactly happened to Irina since the end of May is unknown. The prosecutor’s office of Belarus informed the Russian embassy about her arrest only on September 1. The embassy press secretary Alexei Moskalev stressed that Vikkholm had already provided consular support: “The consulate general in Brest is engaged in Irina’s case, its employees have already met with the Russian woman, although she did not ask for a meeting.” Moskalev added that Vikholm does not complain about the conditions of detention and health.

Internet Human Rights Defender

Almost nothing is known for certain about the biography of Irina Vikkholm. However, Meduza managed to talk to three of her acquaintances. They confirmed that the woman had no close relatives.

According to them, Vikholm is from Kislovodsk, but many years ago she went abroad (and even wanted to renounce Russian citizenship). She used to live in Finland and Germany, but more than 10 years ago she moved to Brest. Familiar women noted that Irina rents an apartment there, she does not have official registration; she works as a nurse for the elderly and keeps four cats.

Vikholm also volunteered for the Public Control of Law and Order movement , which helps Russians and residents of other countries in litigation for violation of various rights (for example, when a complaint is refused). Vikholm herself, among other things, tried to help the Russians who emigrated to Hungary and Norway (her appeals to the state bodies of these countries are at the disposal of Meduza).

At the end of May 2021, Russian woman Irina Vikkholm (69 subscribers) devoted her Twitter posts  mainly to Alexander Lukashenko. There were practically no own tweets: Vikholm simply retweeted journalistic articles and statements of opposition bloggers criticizing Lukashenka. Some even compared him to bin Laden.

One of the last tweets of a 58-year-old woman is a repost of her own publication in LiveJournal on May 23, 2021. It refers to the  landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, after which the Belarusian security forces detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

Vikholm called her publication “Another crime of Lukashenka: an act of state aviation piracy”. This text is a reprint of an article by the BBC Russian Service about the situation with the airliner: it states that the Greek Foreign Ministry called the incident an “act of state piracy”. On her own behalf, Vikholm added only three words to the title: “Another crime of Lukashenka”.

Shortly after this post, Twitter and other social networks of Irina Vikkholm stopped updating.

“Citizen V.”

The further fate of Irina Vikkholm became known only three months later. On September 1, the prosecutor’s office of Belarus reported that a criminal case on “public libel” against Alyaksandr Lukashenka had been sent to the court and “foreign citizen V.” was accused of it. The prosecutor’s office clarified that on May 23, “citizen V.” published a tweet with “slanderous information” about air piracy by Lukashenka. And she did it “wishing to harm the authority of the state.” For this, “citizen V.”, who does not admit her guilt, faces up to five years in prison.

The prosecutor’s office did not name the woman’s surname, but on September 5, the Belarusian human rights center Viasna reported that, most likely, it was Irina Vikkholm. Human rights activists clarified that since the end of May, the Russian woman was in one of the Minsk pre-trial detention centers, although she was recently transferred to an isolation ward in Brest. In Vesna they told Meduza that the woman probably has no close relatives; her arrest became known by chance: “We have a problem with those who have no relatives. They cannot report themselves from the conclusion. We learn from those leaving the prisons or from random people. Some of the Russians visit our chat and wrote about her there. “

What exactly happened to Irina since the end of May is unknown. The prosecutor’s office of Belarus informed the Russian embassy about her arrest only on September 1. The embassy press secretary Alexei Moskalev stressed that Vikkholm had already provided consular support: “The consulate general in Brest is engaged in Irina’s case, its employees have already met with the Russian woman, although she did not ask for a meeting.” Moskalev added that Vikholm does not complain about the conditions of detention and health.

Internet Human Rights Defender

Almost nothing is known for certain about the biography of Irina Vikkholm. However, Meduza managed to talk to three of her acquaintances. They confirmed that the woman had no close relatives.

According to them, Vikholm is from Kislovodsk, but many years ago she went abroad (and even wanted to renounce Russian citizenship). She used to live in Finland and Germany, but more than 10 years ago she moved to Brest. Familiar women noted that Irina rents an apartment there, she does not have official registration; she works as a nurse for the elderly and keeps four cats.

Vikholm also volunteered for the Public Control of Law and Order movement , which helps Russians and residents of other countries in litigation for violation of various rights (for example, when a complaint is refused). Vikholm herself, among other things, tried to help the Russians who emigrated to Hungary and Norway (her appeals to the state bodies of these countries are at the disposal of Meduza).

Screenshot from Irina Vikkholm’s video on her YouTube channel

Friends of the Russian women told Meduza that the siloviki became interested in Vikholm in mid-May. One of Irina’s friends, who lives in Russia, explained that on May 17, two police officers came to his home and asked where Vikholm was now. He replied that he was in Belarus, and after that he warned Irina that the police were asking about her.

Another acquaintance Vikholm told Meduza that on May 27, Irina called him and said that a policeman had also come to her home in Brest. He asked on what basis she lived in Belarus and asked to come to the migration service the next day. According to Meduza, Vikholm did it; then communication with her was lost.

Friends tried to find Irina. They appealed to the Russian embassy and consulate, to human rights activists, as well as to Belarusian and Russian law enforcement agencies (in total, Meduza has more than 20 appeals from Vikholm’s friends).

Only Elena (the name was changed at her request), a resident of Brest who has been in contact with Vikholm for about six years, managed to find out at least something; they are united by their love for cats. The Russian consulate told Elena that Irina Vikkholm is under investigation and is in a pre-trial detention center. The friends failed to achieve anything more (largely because they are not Vikholm’s relatives).

Irina Vikkholm is now awaiting trial. The hearing of her case is scheduled for September 16. The human rights center Viasna explained to Meduza that they tried to find lawyers for the Russian woman, but in the pre-trial detention center she refused the services of local lawyers. She will be represented in court by a state-appointed lawyer.

Vikholm’s acquaintances still hope that she will be released. They do not think that Irina has committed any crime: “She is a couch fighter, pure couch”.

Friends of the Russian women told Meduza that the siloviki became interested in Vikholm in mid-May. One of Irina’s friends, who lives in Russia, explained that on May 17, two police officers came to his home and asked where Vikholm was now. He replied that he was in Belarus, and after that he warned Irina that the police were asking about her.

Another acquaintance Vikholm told Meduza that on May 27, Irina called him and said that a policeman had also come to her home in Brest. He asked on what basis she lived in Belarus and asked to come to the migration service the next day. According to Meduza, Vikholm did it; then communication with her was lost.

Friends tried to find Irina. They appealed to the Russian embassy and consulate, to human rights activists, as well as to Belarusian and Russian law enforcement agencies (in total, Meduza has more than 20 appeals from Vikholm’s friends).

Only Elena (the name was changed at her request), a resident of Brest who has been in contact with Vikholm for about six years, managed to find out at least something; they are united by their love for cats. The Russian consulate told Elena that Irina Vikkholm is under investigation and is in a pre-trial detention center. The friends failed to achieve anything more (largely because they are not Vikholm’s relatives).

Irina Vikkholm is now awaiting trial. The hearing of her case is scheduled for September 16. The human rights center Viasna explained to Meduza that they tried to find lawyers for the Russian woman, but in the pre-trial detention center she refused the services of local lawyers. She will be represented in court by a state-appointed lawyer.

Vikholm’s acquaintances still hope that she will be released. They do not think that Irina has committed any crime: “She is a couch fighter, pure couch”.

(C)MEDUZA 2021

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