Anton Ilyushchenko is a 27-year-old blogger from Omsk, Russia. Last April, he reposted some photographs taken in a nightclub in his hometown. I guess they'd be fairly shocking to someone who's never used the internet before, and the people in them are going more HAM than the average American partygoer tends to—you don't often see people penetrating each other up against the wall in bars over here—but mostly they're just funny photos of drunk people being drunk and doing things they'll probably regret in the morning. To be honest, we've seen wilder stuff on some of our Big Nights Out.
However, it seems the Russian authorities don't share that opinion, because Anton is now facing six years in prison. Though he maintains that he didn't take them himself, the images went viral. The cops followed the hyperlinks back to Anton's blog, and are accusing him of "distributing pornography." Despite the fact that a cursory Google search shows that a hell of a lot of porn is coming out of Russia, the distribution of porn technically carries with it a sentence of two to six years in prison. Anton deleted his post, but the pictures are still easily accessible on a variety of other websites. (Which is why he doesn't mind us reposting them here.)
Last week, the police informed Anton they’d be going ahead with a criminal case after an “expert” at the Ministry of Internal Affairs ruled that three of the pictures constituted porn. The original photographer isn't under investigation and neither is the nightclub's owner—the latter of whom, it's worth mentioning, is rumored to have once worked for the Omsk police force.
I got in touch with Anton to ask how this whole shitstorm came about.
VICE: Hi, Anton. First off, can you tell me a little about Omsk? What kind of city is it?
Anton Ilyushchenko: Omsk is an ordinary provincial city with a population of a bit more than a million people.
How did you find these photos?
I found the photographs via a link that was posted on an internet forum for the Omsk area. The link led to a group on VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social media site.
When you posted the photos on your blog, did you think they’d have this sort of impact?
No, I had no idea they’d have this sort of impact. I thought I’d just discuss the situation with the people who read my blog. And suddenly there were all these reposts across the whole country. If I’d known that the police would investigate me, then I probably wouldn't have put up the post.
Yeah, I figured that might be the case. Tell us a bit about the case against you. What happened with the cops?
I got a call and was asked to make an appearance at Lenin Police Station in Omsk. The pretext was that my name had been linked to the distribution of narcotics over the internet. I’ve never done anything like that. When I actually appeared at the station on the summons, the investigator asked me a bunch of questions about the uproar around the photos from the club. They’d never heard anything about the drugs business and simply shrugged.
Yeah. I said, “Some coworker of yours called me and said I needed to appear about this drugs issue and you’re talking about another thing.” The investigator said he didn’t know anything about this. I still don’t understand why they went about it that way. I don’t hide anything. If I had been warned about what the situation really was, I’d still have come in and given a statement.
I told the police that I saw the photographs on a social networking site and that they'd been discussed on the Omsk forum. They asked me if I could define the word pornography. I answered that I couldn’t give an exact definition and refrained from answering. I said that the pictures of the drunk and naked people had shocked me. They’ve already called me into the station to give statements three times, although until now only as a witness.
Why did the Ministry of Internal Affairs start a criminal case against you, and not the guy who took the photos or the club’s owner?
The Ministry opened a criminal case due to the fact that pornography was distributed. They still don’t really understand who to blame.
Is it true that the owner of Everest is a former cop? Do you think that might have had a bearing on the decision to start a criminal case?
I had heard that the owner of the Everest Café had worked in the police before. More to the point, in the very same police station where they had started their investigation. The police denied this. I don’t know why they started a criminal investigation, but it’s possible that that was the reason.
Some people think you’ve shown Omsk in a bad light. What do you think of that?
It’s not me who’s put Omsk in bad light. I just showed the city as it is.
What do you make of the photos you uncovered?
They’re vile and repellent.
Have you ever been to the Everest yourself?
I popped in there twice before, but I didn’t see any of the sort of anarchy [you see] in the photos.
Do you think these photos constitute porn?
No. Not at all. In all the definitions of pornography you find in decent sources, they mention the arousal of sexual desire. Personally, I don’t experience any such desire looking at these photos. And I didn’t want to incite any sort of desire in my readers. I see here only filth and people behaving like bloody animals. These photos bring up disgust, not arousal.
So what is pornography?
Porn is the depiction of sex with close-ups of the sexual organs. There’s nothing like that in these photos.
Do you think people have a right to distribute pornography?
Distributing pornography is illegal under our laws.
OK. I see from your blog that you’re in Kazakhstan now. Are you planning on coming home? Russian courts don’t have the best reputation over here.
I’m already back in Russia, actually. I don’t have the resources to stay out of the country for a long period of time.
You’re facing a pretty long sentence. Are you afraid?
I’m not afraid to fight for the truth.
What kind of support have you recieved from your fellow Russians?
I’ve gotten support from a huge number of people. They’ve said they’re even willing to take to the streets for me. I want to say a big thank-you to all the people who support me. Together we’ll achieve justice!
Thanks for talking to me, Anton. Good luck and take care!
More stuff about nightclubs: