Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection    
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Autonomous non-profit organization
Center for Animal Welfare Legal Protection

The authorities threatened the boy with imprisonment for saving cats

      August 05, 2003 we received a phone call from Sergei Melnichuk from Podrezkovo Village, Khimki District, Moscow Oblast, and asked for help. He said the attic of his house, where there lived around 8 cats who he and his neighbors were feeding, the house management locked up, the cats left inside.
      At fist, we thought that the matter was quite simple; to us, this was a common case, and there existed an established procedure of dealing with such situations, in the absence of normative legal acts permitting the cats to stay in the attics and basements: first, an information letter addressed to housing and communal services, with a code of laws and procedure of liability for cruel treatment of the animals was given to the guardian, and if the administration refused to cooperate, the guardians themselves made a hole to set free the cats in the air holes of basements or in the doors of the attics (their actions towards saving the animals are lawful and are justified by Article 39 of the Criminal Code "Utter Necessity").
      But at Podrezkovo, the door to the attic was inaccessible as it was behind several rows of bars, also locked up, so events at Podrezkovo took the following turn. Together with his parents, Melnichuk began to entreat the house manager Mrs. T.K. Nazarova (the only person in possession of keys to the attic), and then - the head of Podrezkovo Administration Mr. Katyaskin - to save the cats, let him feed them or catch and take the cats to the basement of the house, or give permission to cut out a hole in the attic door o allow free migration of cats. In response, they heard refusal, insults and rude abusive language.
      The next day the 15-year old Melnichuk was subpoenaed to the Department of Interior Skhodnenskoe with an order to report at the local militia station to the criminal investigation department officer Shikov. The next day the boy arrived at the station and Shikov told him that unless he stopped requesting not to destroy cats criminal proceedings would be instituted against him. When asked "What for?", the officer said "We shall find a pretext".
      We called the house manager Mrs. Nazarova. She stated she had nothing to do with cats, she did not see any cats in the attic and she had a report to this effect, drawn up in the presence of militia. AS far as the Melnichuk boy was concerned, her stance needed no comment: "I'll put that deranged milksop in his place". Mrs. Nazarova did not allow us or anybody else to come and catch the cats in the attic.
      The rescue service of the Ministry for Emergencies, they refused to help, as usual. They would invariably find pretexts for refusal, when it came to saving the animals. Our fax messages and calls to Khimki Town Administration and militia were futile.
      All of a sudden, late in the afternoon on August 14, Melnichuk called and informed us that Mrs. Nazarova had opened the attic door for a couple of hours. We left Belyaevo for Khimki there and then, having taken along a special gear for catching wild cats, realizing that this may be our only chance.
      Sergei and his classmate managed to catch and set free one kitten before our arrival. The cats in the attic proved absolutely wild. They were hiding in the slits of a brick wall and had no intention to approach our cat-catching device, furnished with meals and valerian drops inside, although they had not eaten or drunk more than a week. We had to push the cats out of the slits an do our best to catch them with nets, running bent down with flashlights, each time jumping over the pipes. We were assisted by teenagers. Their mothers and, for some reason, a whole crowd of women-lift operators stood apart and watched us intently. Our first catch was a small slim kitten we subsequently kept to ourselves and nursed for several days. Later, when were tired and dripping with sweat, we retrieved a male cat that hid himself in an old abandoned pipe.
      When the hellish operation was in high gear, Mrs. Nazarova's assistant maintenance technician Mrs. Potapova emerged and demanded that we vacate the attic. Despite Potapova's threatening yells (the lady proved to be definitely unbalanced and overly captious) we completed the male cat catching operation and the cat was safely released into the street. Then, Potapova demanded that we show her documents of our organization. Which we did and explained that we are engaged in an activity provided for in our charter towards protection and saving of animals. Because there were at least five cats left in the attic whom we were unable to catch, it was necessary to draw up a report that there were animals remaining in the attic, so we called the Khimki Department of Interior, asking them to come for this purpose. However, the officer on duty told us that even if the do come, they will do it to institute proceedings against us only. Then, we drew up a report of our organization, meanwhile Potapova summoned militia. We tried to explain to Potapova that it is impossible to lock up the animals and it would be better if a small hole could be made in the door to shove meals for the cats. This caused a new splash of the lady's emotions, and we had to quit the attic, having left meals and water for the cats.
      As were leaving the building, we stumbled in the doorway upon militia that had been summoned by Potapova. The patrol seized our documents and ordered to follow them to Skhodnensskoe Department of Interior. While in the Department, the participant of the action Svetlana Ilyinskaya, because of the injury received during the cat-catching operation, has a severe headache, but militiamen refused to give her a tablet. (Involuntarily, we imagined what happens in this militia station to those detained, if they are not well.)
      Nobody knows how long Svetlana would have to be tormented, but for the Deputy of Reutov Municipal Council Oleg Petrovich Solsky, who, at the request of our friends, phoned the ill-fated Department of Interior and inquired about the reason for the detention of a charity organization that was performing its duties in compliance with its charter. Mr. Solsky thus gave to understand that the situation was under public control. After that, were immediately released.
      Having realized that in the conditions of the aforesaid attic it is impossible to catch all the cats at a time, even with the assistance of the best catchers, we drew up a plan of further actions: the boy is given a cat self-catching device, which he should set and leave in the attic; for this, every day the boy should be allowed in the attic for a few minutes. We only had to make appropriate arrangements with the authorities.
      When we resumed our negotiations with Mr. Katyaskin, we found that the man had grown kinder: he agreed with our plan with the cat-catching device. We phoned Mr. Katyaskin two days later to say that the cats were again hungry and it was high time the Melnichuk boy set the cat-catching device that he had been given. But...,hearing Katyaskin speak this time, one could say it was a different person altogether:"There are no cats there, I'm tired of you. I don't intend to waste my time on you any more" - he said curtly and hung up. This was followed by a long series of multiple addresses in person, by phone, fax, cable, mail to various organizations and all kinds of officials. Here is a list far from complete: Public Prosecutor's Office of Khimki Town, Chief of Khimki Department of Interior, Chief of Khimki Town Council, his deputies and aides, Moscow Oblast Governor Gromov.
      The aforesaid organizations made it clear that the cats would have to die, while the aide of Khimki District Administration promised that he would personally see to it that "this boy is punished". Now, we wish to list here the persons and organizations appeals to whom also proved futile: GUVD of Moscow Oblast - Department of Internal Security, RF General Prosecutor's Office, RF Minister of the Interior, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the "Yedinaya Rossia" Party Gryzlov, Plenipotentiary of the RF President for Central Federal District Poltavchenko, several parties, Gosduma deputies, Chairman of the Gosduma Ecology Committee Grachev, Gosduma Chairman Seleznev, Chairman of the RF Federation Council Mironov.
      And finally, when we saw that the power in this country is paralyzed and any lawless action is justified by the struggle against the acts of terror (this covers even the harassment of people and animals), we realized that the situation is extremely reminiscent of dictatorship. There was nothing left for us to do but apply to the UNO Human Rights Commission, which we did.

Story continued.

      When TV Programs "Vesti" and "Vremechko" went on the air in September with reports about locked up cats in the attic at Podrezkovo (the same material was published by "Megapolis Express", "Russkyi Kurier", "Rossiiskaya Gazeta"), the house management and militia grew active: every day, Katyaskin, Nazarova and militiamen visited the attic, accompanied by invited witnesses (casual, strange people). The cat were not fed, while daily requests of the Melnichuk boy to set the cat-catching device were ignored.
      During these raids, a few cats ran out onto the landing. "How do I catch them now?" -exclaimed the boy in despair - "the entrance door to the house is under a code lock, and it is impossible to set the cat-catching device in the doorway before very eyes of the house dwellers". The "good" neighbors were quick with reproaches: "why do the cats appearing on the stairways defecate everywhere? ".
      I must tell you that Sergei's neighbors are far from being pleasant to deal with; together with the TV teams of the TV Programs "Vesti" and "Vremechko" we saw and filmed those neighbors, and we take off our hats to Sergei's self-possession and nobleness, who does not respond to scoffing and insults let forth by that infuriated gang. Some of those people never realized that all we wanted was take the cats to the basement.
      All this time, the cats had not been dying in the attic only thanks to Sergei who risked his life trying to throw meals to the cats from his neighbors' balcony on the top floor (most dwellers of the house were compassionate towards the cats).
      On the fortieth day of cats' confinement, the Melnichuk boy called us and said that there had occurred a wonder: he was allowed to visit the attic freely any time and set the cat-catching device there, and in general do anything he wanted in the attic. We still don't know what brought about such turn of events. Might have been the prayers of our neighbor Baba Vera, also a guardian of homeless cats, who prayed for the saving of the confined cats. However, joking apart, more likely, it was a small article in the very popular Khimki Newspaper "Vpered" ('Forward'). For some reason, Nazarova was annoyed by this publication even more then by demonstration of herself on Central TV.
      All cats in the attic were caught by Melnichuk in a few hours(!) by means of the cat-catching device. Sergei's joy was boundless.
      A few days later we received news that the head of Khimki Town Council Krivorotenko, the man whom we never got on the phone or saw in person, had been removed from his post in connection with machinations in land sales in Khimki District. According to the dwellers of Podreskovo, their local authorities too participated actively in land sales machinations.
      We are convinced that the head of Khimki started having problems exactly at the moment the cats were dying from hunger in the attic. This is a manifestation of the Higher law of justice, which has not been identified yet and is not recognized by society, whereby the heaviest crime is one against defenseless animals, for which man inevitably ands unexpectedly is punished (disease, catastrophe, unpleasant turns of fate) at any time and place. All those guilty of poisoning cats, of the death of two kittens thrown into a refuse chute, of the cat killed by a pipe will sooner or later be punished.

Epilogue.

      The cats did not enjoy life in the basement too long. Two weeks after their miraculous release, despite total absence of rats, the District Sanitary-and-Epidemiological Station carried out deratization in the basement, after which of the cats earlier confined in the attic only one survived - a kitten that we caught on August 14. This smoke-colored Siberian cat, Tuchka by name, lives in our flat now.
      Ironically, the cat-catching device was handed over by Sergei to the cat guardian Anna Fedorovna living in Ulitsa Krylatskie Kholmy, 27, korpus 3. Her story proved to be nearly a replica of the story in Khimki. She, too, used the cat-catching device to catch about ten cats in the attic and took them to the basement. the last male cat was not an easy catch: she hunted him for two weeks, and finally succeeded. In this case, the cats were not poisoned immediately. First, they tormented the animals by walling them up in the basement for six months or so.

Afterword.

      There are not many differences from the Podrezkovo case. In stead of the basement - an attic, instead of an elderly woman - a boy. How come, then, that this story was taken up by the papers? Simply, it coincided, by chance, with dispatch of our letter over the media to the RF General Prosecutor's Office on the subject of basements. As an example, we dispatched a Podrezkovo story, into the bargain, in the hope that journalists will be more attracted by a story with a specific case. And the scheme worked.

Corresponding with officials (in Russian)

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