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eXile Classic / April 24, 1997
By Matt Taibbi

About his roommates in the TsSR, Kleshnenko had the following to report: there were a number of foreigners inside, one who answered the description of Galali, and several others.

“There is one from Iran in there who claims he had his own business in Moscow, and he had a visa that was expired,” he said. “He says he’s been in there almost three months. There’s another one, an Arab, who says he has a Swiss wife, but can’t get out.”

Kleshnenkov added that while the bomzhi can walk around outside, smoke and enjoy relative freedom inside, the foreigners are kept in their rooms. As for himself, Kleshnenkov said he’d seen enough. He had no money to get back to Rostov, but said that once he made it home, he was going to stay there and grow vegetables at his house. He even gave his address to some of the TsSR inmates and says he expects visitors.

“Why bother with Moscow?” he said. “It’s better to stay out in the country. It’s just a lot quieter.”

One person who never expects visitors is Sergei Kunchikov, the director of TsSR, who declined to be interviewed for this article. He referred the eXile to the Moscow Police (GUVD) to ask for permission to visit his facility; the GUVD in turn referred us to UVIR, UVIR declined to answer questions about the facility, and so on. The law governing the TsSR is so vague that it’s pretty easy for an official to claim it isn’t in his jurisdiction and be believable. Vatakh, for instance, was referred by Kunchikov to the Prosecutor’s office when she requested permission to visit Galali. When she reached the city Prosecutor’s office, they laughed; they only handled people who were charged with crimes, and Galali, as they saw it, hadn’t been charged with anything.

The solution to all of this, of course, are clearer laws regarding visa violations, deportation and refugees, but even idealists like Ganushkina aren’t hopeful that anything will be changed anytime soon.

“You know how things are in this country,” she said. “Even though there is, right now, a bill ready to be introduced to the Duma which would clear all of these things up, a law really won’t have much of an immediate impact. Implementation takes time, money, and a change of mentality. It will take many, many years for all of this to be sorted out.”

In the meantime, the Turkish-prison-style rule system will remain in effect. “Basically,” said Ganushkina, “they can do whatever they want to you in there. It all depends on the mood of the people in charge there.”

Certainly, an American or a European would have an easier time than someone like Galali, who, as a Kurd in a Russian jail, is, as they say, stuck between Iraq and a hard place. Neither deportation nor confinement is viable option for him, and Kunchikiov, Vatakh says, isn’t ready yet to consider anything else. “They’re considering deporting him, but at my expense, and to Iraq, where there’s genocide,” she said. “It’s, you know, not a good situation.”

Most foreigners in Moscow can at least be comforted by the fact that they have a place to be deported to, should they ever land in the TsSR. But deportation is the best-case scenario, and that’s a package that will likely come with a three-month, shower-free, three-soup-a-day vacation in Severny. So eXpats who think they hold all the cards when they get stopped on the street by the cops are probably making a mistake.

Vatakh, who blames Galali’s detention on her neighbors, had an interesting way of describing the threat.

“This jail,” she said, “is a place you get taken to because someone doesn’t like you. Of course, I’m no judge, but my guess is- Kurds don’t have a monopoly on being disliked in this city.”

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