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Vologda anarchist freed from compulsory work in the case of arson of the office of “United Russia”

A Vologda province court has ordered the release of a anarchist political activist Ruslan Gatamov. He was convicted in October 2021 on a “hooliganism” charge in relation to a protest on October 30–31, 2019 at an office of the United Russia Party and sentenced to 300 hours (12.5 days) of correctional labor. Although Gatamov pleaded not guilty to the charge, he admitted throwing a Molotov cocktail at the wall of the United Russia office. The court released Gatamov over the prosecution’s objections on humanitarian grounds, without canceling his conviction.

The case stands in marked contrast with that of another anarchist political activist, Azat Miftakhov, who received a six year prison sentence in January 2021, accused of breaking a window during another protest, also at a United Russia office, and also convicted of “hooliganism.” The charge against Miftakhov, based on fabricated evidence of “secret” government witnesses, was on its face less serious than that against Gatamov. Yet Miftakhov was tortured and mistreated while imprisoned and received a grossly excessive sentence that he is currently serving in a labor colony in Omutninsk. We call on the Russian authorities to exercise leniency and compassion in Azat Miftakhov’s case, which they have just demonstrated they are capable of doing, and to immediately release Azat from imprisonment.   

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Lettre ouverte de mathématiciens russes au comité exécutif de l’IMU à propos du mathématicien et prisonnier politique Azat Miftakhov

86 mathématiciens russes ont envoyé la lettre qui suit au comité exécutif de l’Union Mathématique Internationale au sujet du cas de notre collègue Azat Miftakhov. Les mathématiciens russes peuvent continuer à signer cette lettre en suivant ce lien.

Chers et chères membres du comité exécutif de l’Union Mathématique Internationale (IMU),

A l’été 2022, des mathématiciens du monde entier vont se rassembler pour célébrer les résultats de nos collègues, et notre discipline en général, pendant le Congrès international des mathématiciens qui doit avoir lieu à Saint Pétersbourg, en Russie. Cet événement est de la plus haute importance pour la communauté mathématique mondiale. La liberté de réunion, la coopération scientifique ouverte entre des communautés académiques de nations différentes et la neutralité politique sont toutes des valeurs fondamentales que le Congrès va garantir à tous les mathématiciens, ce pourquoi nous saluons la décision d’organiser le Congrès en Russie et de rendre possible la participation de centaines de nos collègues. Pourtant, un mathématicien russe est privé de cette opportunité par les autorités russes, pour des motifs politiques – en opposition aux valeurs mêmes qui sont chères à l’IMU.

Nous faisons référence à Azat Miftakhov, étudiant diplômé de la Faculté de mécanique et de mathématiques de l’université d’Etat de Moscou et militant anarchiste, qui a été illégalement incarcéré par les autorités russes depuis le 1er février 2019. Accusé d’avoir brisé une vitre d’un bureau local du parti dirigeant de Russie, il a été initialement détenu sous l’accusation de tentative d’attaque terroriste. Grâce à la prompte réaction de la société civile et de la communauté mathématique mondiale, cette accusation a été abandonnée par les procureurs d’État, mais Miftakhov a été cependant reconnu coupable d’« hooliganisme » et condamné à une détention de six ans dans une prison fédérale — peine qu’il est toujours en train de purger. Pour le moment, il est forcé de travailler dans une scierie malgré des problèmes de santé et on lui refuse l’accès aux publications mathématiques récentes en anglais.

Les faits ne laissent aucun doute sur les motivations politiques derrière sa persécution. Il a été signalé qu’Azat et d’autres détenus ont été torturés pour les contraindre à des confessions (y compris par des menaces de pénétration avec un tourne-vis), que les autorités ont fait pression sur la famille d’Azat tout au long des procédures pénales. Toute l’accusation repose exclusivement sur le témoignage d’un « témoin secret » qui n’a pas résisté à l’examen public. Il y a eu de plus une apparente campagne de dénigrement contre Miftakhov dans des médias chauvins, dont certains contrôlés par l’état, campagne qui a inclus l’utilisation d’insultes homophobes contre lui et la diffusion d’informations privées qui n’ont pu être acquises de manière légale, comme des photos intimes d’Azat ou des enregistrements d’appels téléphoniques avec sa mère. 

L’affaire Miftakhov n’est en aucune manière un cas isolé : depuis le 31 janvier 2018, quand a eu lieu le crime dont Azat a été accusé, le Service fédéral de sécurité de Russie (connu sous le sigle de FSB) a redoublé sa répression contre les personnes ayant des opinions anarchistes en Russie. Par ailleurs, la communauté académique en général est devenue depuis la cible d’une pression croissante ou même de répression directe de la part des autorités russes. Il y a une longue liste de scientifiques russes arrêtés par le FSB, prétendument pour trahison ou espionnage, dont Valery Mitko, Valery Golubkin, Viktor Kudryavtsev et beaucoup d’autres. Les répressions contre les universitaires russes ne sont pas limitées aux sciences naturelles, un sociologue et recteur d’une importante université russe non étatique, Sergei Zuev, faisant partie des victimes les plus récentes.

Les soutiens venant de l’American Mathematical Society, de la London Mathematical Society, de la Société mathématique de France, de l’Unione Matematica Italiana, de la Sociedade Brasileira de Matemàtica et, enfin et surtout, de 54 membres de l’Académie des sciences de Russie témoignent amplement que la communauté mathématique internationale est gravement préoccupée par la situation. Une pétition pour faire entendre la voix sur l’affaire Miftakhov a été signée par plus de 300 mathématiciens, et soutenue par les Sociétés mathématiques d’Espagne, de France et d’Ukraine. Après tout, l’Union mathématique internationale a elle-même appelé le gouvernement russe à laisser Miftakhov terminer ses études doctorales en France, où la Fondation mathématique Jacques Hadamard et le Laboratoire de mathématiques d’Orsay lui ont proposé une position.

Si une attitude plus ferme et plus active n’était pas prise sur la question, l’appel pour la relaxe de Miftakhov tomberait dans l’oreille d’un sourd et ne provoquerait aucune réaction de la part du gouvernement russe – l’appel des 54 académiciens russes a ainsi échoué. Laisser simplement un haut responsable de la FSB, Dmitry Derevyashkin, sur la liste des organisateurs du Congrès international des mathématiciens (ICM) et permettre au Premier ministre de Russie, Mikhail Mishustin, de s’auto-promouvoir sur le compte twitter officiel de l’ICM, pendant qu’Azat reste incarcéré et contraint à travailler dans une scierie au lieu de faire de la recherche en mathématiques sont des actes qui vont contre les valeurs de neutralité politique et de solidarité professionnelle sur lesquelles l’IMU est construite. Nous sommes d’accord avec le fait que boycotter des événements scientifiques est inacceptable, mais continuer une collaboration avec les personnes et les organisations mêmes qui sont coupables de la persécution politique de scientifiques dans notre pays l’est aussi. C’est pourquoi nous soutenons l’idée exprimée par Ahmed Abbes et Cédric Villani et appelons l’IMU à faire ce qu’elle a eu une fois la bravoure de faire, en réponse à des répressions contre nos collègues mathématiciens : repousser le Congrès international des mathématiciens jusqu’au moment où Azat sera relâché de prison ou son affaire révisée, dans une procédure qui respecte ses droits constitutionnels. De plus, nous croyons fermement que le Congrès, se tenant en Russie, doit inclure un panel sur les mathématiciens en danger, par exemple ceux et celles qui sont persécutés pour des raisons politiques par des régimes autoritaires, panel qui serait ouvert au public et largement couvert par des journalistes indépendants.

La peine d’Azat doit se terminer le 5 décembre 2023, ce qui rend tout à fait possible de préserver la sorte de célébration que le Congrès international est pour chacun, et pas seulement pour ceux et celles qui ont la chance de ne pas être arbitrairement persécutés par un gouvernement autoritaire. La frilosité à agir serait un stigmate sur la réputation de l’IMU en tant qu’organisation professionnelle engagée pour les valeurs de liberté scientifique et de neutralité politique. 

Signé par 86 mathématiciens russes, y compris 23 signataires dont nous ne divulguons pas publiquement les noms pour leur sécurité et leur protection.

Liste des 63 signataires publics :

Arseniy Akopyan, Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences

Dmitri Alekseevsky, Institute for Information Transmission Problems

Maxim Balashov

Alexey Balitskiy, IAS

Mikhail Borovoi, Tel Aviv University

Alexander Bufetov, CNRS

Alisa Chistopolskaya, NRU HSE

Rodion Deev, IMPAN

Anna Dmitrieva, University of East Anglia

Ilya Dumanski, MIT

Alexander Efimov, NRU HSE and Steklov Mathematical Institute

Alexander Elashvili, Tbilisi State University, Razmadze Mathematical Institute

Sergey N. Fëdorov

Boris Feigin, HSE

Sergey Finashin

Yan V Fyodorov, King’s College London

Azat Gainutdinov, CNRS France

Nikita Gladkov, UCLA

Leonid Gurvits, The City College of New York

Lyalya Guseva

Michael Hitrik, UCLA

Andrei Ionov, MIT

Grigory Ivanov, MIPT and IST Austria

Victor Kac, MIT

Ilya Kapovich, Hunter College of CUNY

Roman Karasev, Institute for Information Transmission Problems

Nikolai Konovalov, University of Notre Dame

Dmitri Korshunov, IMPA

Yury Kudryashov, University of Toronto

Mikhail Lobanov, Lomonosov Moscow State University

Dimitri Markushevich, University of Lille

Irina Mamsurova, NRU HSE

Sergey Melikhov, Steklov Mathematical Institute

Leonid Monin, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig

Slava Naprienko, Stanford University

Nikita Nikolskiy, NRU HSE

Victor Ostrik, University of Oregon

Anna Perevalova

Alexander Petrov, Harvard University

Leonid Petrov, University of Virginia

Aleksei Piskunov, NRU HSE

Alexander Popkovich, NRU HSE

Sergey Popov, University of Porto

Vladimir Potapov, Sobolev Institute of Mathematics

Leonid Prigozhin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Vladimir Protasov, Moscow State University

Andrei Rodin, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences

Vasily Rogov, Humboldt University of Berlin

Daniel Rogozin, Institute for Information Transmission Problem of Russian Academy of Sciences

Slava Rychkov, IHES

Alexander Shen, CNRS & University of Montpellier

Ivan Solonenko, King’s College London

Mikhail Tamm, Moscow State University and Tallinn University

Grigory Taroyan, NRU HSE

Gleb Terentiuk, University of Michigan

Alexandra Utiralova, MIT

Misha Verbitsky, IMPA

Anatoly Vershik, Saint Petersburg branch of Steklov Mathematical Institute

Vladimir Vinnikov, HSE

Vladimir Zakharov

Bogdan Zavyalov, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics

Efim Zelmanov, UC San Diego

Vadim Zharnitsky, University of Illinois

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An open letter of Russian mathematicians to IMU Executive Committee regarding mathematician and political prisoner Azat Miftakhov

104 Russian mathematicians sent the following letter to the International Mathematical Union Executive Committee, concerning the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov. Russian mathematicians can continue to sign this letter by filling out the form here.

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive Committee,

In Summer 2022, mathematicians of the world are going to convene to mark the achievements of our colleagues and discipline on the whole during the International Congress of Mathematicians scheduled to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This event is of utmost importance for the global mathematical community. Freedom of association, open scientific cooperation between academic communities from different nations, and political neutrality are all cornerstone values that the Congress is set to secure for all mathematicians, which is why we laud the decision to hold the Congress in Russia and make it possible for hundreds of our colleagues to participate. Yet one of Russian mathematicians is deprived of this opportunity on political grounds by Russian authorities — in contrast to the very values that IMU holds dear.

We are referring to Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student at Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of Moscow State University and an anarchist activist, who has been unlawfully incarcerated by the Russian authorities since February 1, 2019. Accused of breaking a window of a local office of Russia’s ruling party, he was initially detained under charges of attempting a terrorist attack. Thanks to the prompt reaction of civil society and the global mathematical community, this charge was dropped by the  state prosecutors, but Miftakhov was nonetheless convicted of committing “hooliganism” and sentenced to six years in federal prison — the term he has been serving to the present day. As of now, he is forced to work on a timber mill despite health conditions and is refused access to the recent English-language mathematical publications.

Facts leave no doubt about the political motivation behind his persecution. It has been scrupulously reported that Azat and other detainees were tortured in order to force out confessions (including threats of penetration with a screwdriver); authorities pressured Azat’s family in the course of criminal proceedings. The whole indictment is based solely on the testimony of a “secret witness” that fails to stand up to public scrutiny. In addition, there was an apparent smear campaign against Miftakhov in jingoist media, some of them state-controlled, that involved using homophobic slurs against him and sharing private information that could not have been acquired in a legal way, such as leaked intimate photos of Azat or recordings of the phone calls with his mother.

The Miftakhov case is by no means an outlier: ever since January 31, 2018, when the crime Azat had been accused of took place, Russia’s Federal Security Service (also known as FSB) only doubled down on its crackdown on people with anarchist views in Russia. However, the academic community in general has since become the target of mounting pressure or even outright repression from Russian authorities. There is a long list of Russian scientists arrested by FSB for alleged treason or espionage including Valery Mitko, Valery Golubkin, Viktor Kudryavtsev and many others. The repressions against Russian scholars are not limited to the natural sciences, with a sociologist and a rector of a major Russia’s non-state university Sergei Zuev being among the most recent victims.

Endorsements coming from the American Mathematical Society, London Mathematical Society, Mathematical Society of France, Italian Mathematical Union, Brazilian Society of Mathematics, and, last not least, from 54 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences serve as ample evidence that the international mathematical community is indeed gravely concerned with the situation. A petition to raise the voice about the Miftakhov case was signed by more than 300 mathematicians and supported by Mathematical Societies of Spain, France, and Ukraine. After all, the International Mathematical Union has itself called the Russian government to let Miftakhov finish his graduate studies in France, where he was proposed a position by the Fondation Mathématique Jacques Hadamard and the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d’Orsay.

Without taking a more steadfast and active stance on the matter, the call for Miftakhov’s release would fall upon deaf ears and result in no action on behalf of the Russian government, like the call of the 54 Russian academicians fell. Simply letting the FSB officer Dmitry Derevyashkin to be listed as a co-organizer of the International Mathematical Congress (ICM) and allowing the Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin to promote himself on the ICM official twitter account, while Azat is kept incarcerated and forced to work on a timber mill in lieu of doing mathematical research, is an act that goes against the values of political neutrality and professional solidarity that IMU is built upon. We agree that boycotting scientific events is unacceptable, but neither is continued collaboration with the very people and organizations who perpetrate political persecution of scientists in our country. This is why we support the idea expressed by Ahmed Abbes and Cédric Villani and call for IMU to do something it has once had the bravery to do in response to repressions against fellow mathematicians — that is to defer the International Congress of Mathematicians to the moment Azat is released from prison or his case is reviewed in a process that respects his constitutional rights. Moreover, we believe that the Congress, being held in Russia, must include a sectional panel on mathematicians in danger, such as those persecuted on political grounds by authoritarian regimes, which would be open to the public and widely covered by independent journalists.

Azat’s sentence is expected to end on December 5, 2023, which makes it completely possible to preserve the kind of celebration ICM is for everyone, not just those lucky not to be arbitrarily persecuted by an authoritarian government.Reluctance to act would be a scar upon the good name of IMU as a professional organization committed to the values of scientific freedom and political neutrality.

Signed by 104 Russian mathematicians, including 24 non-public signatories whose names we are withholding for their safety and protection.

List of the 80 public signatories:

  1. Arseniy Akopyan, Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences
  2. Dmitri Alekseevsky, Institute for Information Transmission Problems
  3. Maxim Balashov
  4. Alexey Balitskiy, IAS
  5. Mikhail Borovoi, Tel Aviv University
  6. Alexander Bufetov, CNRS
  7. Alisa Chistopolskaya, NRU HSE
  8. Petr Chunaev, ITMO University
  9. Rodion Deev, IMPAN
  10. Anna Dmitrieva, University of East Anglia
  11. Ilya Dumanski, MIT
  12. Alexander Efimov, NRU HSE and Steklov Mathematical Institute
  13. Alexander Elashvili, Tbilisi State University, Razmadze Mathematical Institute
  14. Roman Fedorov, University of Pittsburgh
  15. Sergey N. Fëdorov
  16. Boris Feigin, HSE
  17. Sergey Finashin
  18. Yan V Fyodorov, King’s College London
  19. Azat Gainutdinov, CNRS France
  20. Nikita Gladkov, UCLA
  21. Artem Gureev, University of Western Ontario
  22. Leonid Gurvits, The City College of New York
  23. Lyalya Guseva
  24. Michael Hitrik, UCLA
  25. Andrei Ionov, MIT
  26. Grigory Ivanov, MIPT and IST Austria
  27. Victor Kac, MIT
  28. Ilya Kapovich, Hunter College of CUNY
  29. Roman Karasev, Institute for Information Transmission Problems
  30. Nikolai Konovalov, University of Notre Dame
  31. Dmitri Korshunov, IMPA
  32. Gregory Kucherov, CNRS
  33. Nikolai Kuchumov, NRU HSE
  34. Yury Kudryashov, University of Toronto
  35. Mikhail Lobanov, Lomonosov Moscow State University
  36. Igor Lysenok, Steklov Mathematical Institute
  37. Alexander Magazinov
  38. Irina Mamsurova, NRU HSE
  39. Dimitri Markushevich, University of Lille
  40. Anastasia Matveeva, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
  41. Sergey Melikhov, Steklov Mathematical Institute
  42. Leonid Monin, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig
  43. Slava Naprienko, Stanford University
  44. Nikita Nikolskiy, NRU HSE
  45. Ilya Novikov, The Gertner Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center
  46. Victor Ostrik, University of Oregon
  47. Anna Perevalova
  48. Alexander Petrov, Harvard University
  49. Leonid Petrov, University of Virginia
  50. Aleksei Piskunov, NRU HSE
  51. Semën Podkorytov
  52. Gleb Pogudin
  53. Alexander Popkovich, NRU HSE
  54. Sergey Popov, University of Porto
  55. Vladimir Potapov, Sobolev Institute of Mathematics
  56. Leonid Prigozhin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  57. Vladimir Protasov, Moscow State University
  58. Andrei Rodin, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
  59. Vasily Rogov, Humboldt University of Berlin
  60. Daniel Rogozin, Institute for Information Transmission Problem of Russian Academy of Sciences
  61. Slava Rychkov, IHES
  62. Alexander Shen, CNRS & University of Montpellier
  63. Ilias Sibgatullin
  64. Ivan Solonenko, King’s College London
  65. Mikhail Tamm, Moscow State University and Tallinn University
  66. Grigory Taroyan, NRU HSE
  67. Yana Teplitskaya
  68. Gleb Terentiuk, University of Michigan
  69. Arkady Tsurkov, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)
  70. Alexandra Utiralova, MIT
  71. Dmitri Vassiliev, University College London
  72. Misha Verbitsky, IMPA
  73. Anatoly Vershik, Saint Petersburg branch of Steklov Mathematical Institute
  74. Vladimir Vinnikov, HSE
  75. Vladimir Zakharov
  76. Bogdan Zavyalov, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics
  77. Efim Zelmanov, UC San Diego
  78. Vadim Zharnitsky, University of Illinois
  79. Boris Zilber, University of Oxford
  80. Alexandr Zubkov United Arab Emiartes University; Sobolev Institute of Mathematics, SORAN, Omsk Branch
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MSU post-graduate student Azat Miftakhov was injured at work in the Kirov colony

A mathematician and a political prisoner Azat Miftakhov was injured during an industrial accident while working on a sawmill at the Correctional Colony no. 17 in the Omutninsky district go the Kirov province, as reported by his wife Elena Gorban.

At the sawmill Azat had to work with large diameter logs, in -25C frost, rolling the logs with his left hand onto a moving belt. The work is known to be dangerous,  and without much training he suffered a mishap and his hand was crushed.

Azat was taken to the infirmary, where an X-ray of his hand showed that there was no fracture. Nevertheless he received a work release for a week.  The accident happened in October but Azat did not inform his family then, not wanting them to worry. According to Elena Gorban, over a month after the accident a finger on Azat’s left hand was still visibly swollen. Elena had a short meeting with her husband at the Correctional Colony no. 17 on December 17. The meeting took place in a special room with a glass partition, with Azat and Elena communicating on the phone, and a correctional employee of the colony present the entire time.

Azat reported that he is finishing a carpentry course, learning to make hangers, mops and stools. There will be an exam in January where he will need to make a bar stool. Azat also wants to complete a glazier course. According to him, the prisoners in the Kirov colony are fed well, much better than in Moscow. However, it is very cold in the Omutninsky district, and they are forbidden to cover their faces.

Reported by Idel.Realii

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The Committee of Concerned Scientists: Russian Mathematics PhD student convicted of charges without evidence

On November 22, 2021, the Committee of Concerned Scientists sent a letter to the President of the Russian Federation concerning the mathematics PhD student Azat Miftakhov who has been detained since February 2019 and recently convicted on charges of manufacture of explosives and breaking a political party window. These charges appear to be based on secret, unreliable witnesses and he has been subjected to torture. They ask the President to show good will and pardon Miftakhov given his young age and promise as a mathematician.

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Update on the case of Azat Miftakhov on November 12, 2021

On October 6, 2021, the IMU Executive Committee issued a statement concerning the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov who has been arbitrarily detained by Russian authorities since February 2019:  “The IMU expresses its wish that Miftakhov be allowed to complete his doctorate in France, enabling him to pursue a career in mathematics, and asks that he be released at the earliest opportunity so that he can take up his studies in France.”

The Azat Miftakhov Committee welcomes this statement and renews its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov.

The Russian human rights organization Memorial announced on November 9, 2021 that Azat Miftakhov had been placed by the prison administration on a special list “as prone to suicide, terrorism, drug use and assaults against prison staff.” As a result, Azat is forced to appear in front of a camera every two hours, and at night a prison guard videotapes how he sleeps.

On November 11, 2021, the Russian human rights organization Memorial announced that it received a notification from the Supreme Court that the Prosecutor General’s Office had filed a lawsuit to liquidate Memorial International for systematic violations of the law on “foreign agents.”

Founded in January 1989 with the support of physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, Memorial played a leading role in documenting Stalinist repression and continues to do so to this day, while these crimes are relativized or swept under the carpet.

The law on “foreign agents”, introduced in July 2012 by legislators from the governing United Russia party to oppress civil society organizations, continues to evolve, to the point that it is no longer just a question of funding:  according to the latest directives of the FSB, the Russian secret services, any research activity relating to themes such as space or defense may be sufficient to obtain this label.

As we have already reported in our letter to the IMU Executive Committee on August 23, we find it particularly shocking that Dmitry S. Derevyashkin, first Deputy Head of Department “P” of the Economic Security Service of the FSB, sits on the ICM Executive Organizing Committee.

The Azat Miftakhov Committee

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Human rights a thorn in the side of the International Mathematical Union: the case of Azat Miftakov

By Ahmed Abbes and Cédric Villani

At the end of September, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) will celebrate its centenary with great pomp in Strasbourg, the city where it was created in 1920. The event, entitled “Mathematics without Borders,” has been postponed for one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The centennial of the foundation is a moment to reflect on the long and varied history of international cooperation of mathematicians and show that the modern IMU seeks to include mathematicians from all countries,” announce the organizers.

The IMU oversees and convenes the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) every four years, which is the largest congress for mathematics and at which prestigious prizes are awarded, including the Fields medals. The next Congress will take place in St Petersburg in July 2022. The Russian government has pledged to grant visa-free entry to mathematicians from all countries, which seems to have tipped the scales in favor of St Petersburg in its bid against Paris. However, the ideal of “Mathematics without Borders” will not be achieved in this ICM. Several colleagues have already expressed strong reluctance to travel to Russia, whose government violates human rights and suppresses fundamental freedoms, including members of the LGBTQ community and Ukrainian mathematicians. They will not be the only ones who cannot attend the festivities. The young Russian mathematician Azat Miftakhov will not participate either. He will probably be imprisoned in the correctional colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov province, following an iniquitous judgment.

Miftakhov’s doctoral studies at Moscow State University were interrupted in February 2019, when he was arrested by police and charged with manufacturing explosives. At the police station he was tortured, but after three days the court threw out the case for lack of evidence. He was released but then rearrested before leaving the police station; this time he was charged with having participated in a plot more than a year earlier to break a window at an office of President Putin’s United Russia Party. Miftakhov pleaded not guilty, but this January 18, 2021, a Moscow court pronounced a six-year sentence in a penal colony, on the basis of testimony by two secret “witnesses” — one of whom claimed to have identified the masked Miftakhov by his “expressive brows,” and who died several months before the trial. The other two defendants, who admitted their guilt while denying that Miftakhov was involved in the incident, received suspended sentences of between two and four years.

The Russian human rights organization “Memorial” recognized Miftakhov’s political prisoner status as early as 2019.  Two petitions in his support had been published by the time of his January sentencing: one in Russia had gathered more than 86000 signatures, while a second petition was signed by over 3,400 mathematicians from 15 countries. Before the verdict, academicians, professors, and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences had published an open letter calling on the court to release Miftakhov. Human Rights Watch declared after the verdict that “Azat Miftakhov’s conviction is clearly unjust and unfair, and authorities should immediately and unconditionally overturn it.” 

Mathematicians around the world were shocked by the court’s decision.  Just before the court announced the sentence in January, 47 mathematicians sent a letter to the St Petersburg ICM Organizing Committee asking them to take an active position on this case. The Hadamard Doctoral School of Mathematics at Paris-Saclay University issued a statement on March 4, 2021 naming Azat Miftakhov an honorary student and inviting him to complete his doctorate in Paris once he is released. Many professional associations, including the national mathematical societies in the US, UK, France, Brazil, Italy, and Spain, have issued public statements expressing their concern about his case. 

A committee of mathematicians was formed last January to defend Azat Miftakhov. It organized several actions, including the Azat Miftakhov Day on June 16, 2021, which once again demonstrated the strong solidarity of the international mathematical community with Azat.

A few weeks later, on August 1st, Azat Mifatkhov was  moved to the correctional colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov Province, which is known for the mistreatment and torture of prisoners. He was first assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop, consisting in cleaning sawdust from under the sawmill. Later, he informed his wife that his working conditions have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. He described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through. They left me only socks, underpants, gloves and thermal underwear (…) the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check” he wrote. 

Despite the strong support of the mathematical community, one voice is conspicuously lacking in its support for Azat, namely the voice of the International Mathematical Union. Although the IMU expressed, in rather conditional terms, concern about his fate in the past, it still has not called for his release. On August 23, 2021, the Azat Miftakhov Committee, supported by 322 mathematicians including Fields Medal and Abel Prize winners, and 4 mathematical societies, sent a letter to the IMU Executive Committee regarding Azat’s case. “It is now time for the IMU to follow the position adopted by the international mathematical community it represents and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov” they wrote. “As the IMU’s partner in the organization of the next ICM in July 2022 in St Petersburg, the Russian government cannot ignore such a call,” they added.  To date, the IMU Executive Committee has not responded to this letter.

It is not the first time the IMU has faced blatant human rights abuses. The 1982 ICM was initially planned in Warsaw. But following General Jaruzelski’s coup d’état in Poland in December 1981, a state of emergency was declared and thousands of activists were thrown into prison or camps, including several mathematicians. The IMU decided in April 1982 to postpone the ICM. It was finally held in August 1983 after the release of the imprisoned mathematicians and the lifting of the curfew. 

This famous historical case should have inspired the IMU Executive Committee to work to obtain the release of our young colleague. Instead, it continues to ignore the support calls issued by the international mathematical community. In doing so, the IMU Executive Committee may jeopardize the upcoming ICM; attending the congress in St Petersburg while Azat is arbitrarily detained will pose a serious dilemma for the entire mathematical community.

Ahmed Abbes, mathematician, Director of research at CNRS, IHES, Paris

Cédric Villani, mathematician, Laureate of the Fields Medal (2010), Université Lyon 1 Claude Bernard, Member of the French Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy and Member of the French National Assembly

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Over 300 mathematicians call on the IMU to speak out on the case of Azat Miftakhov

The IMU Executive Committee did not respond to our message of August 23, 2021 regarding the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov. We sent them the following new message on September 6, 2021.

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive Committee,


We sent you a letter regarding the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov on August 23. We would like to inform you that since then, the letter has been signed by more than 300 mathematicians and 3 learned mathematical societies. The full signatories list is available at this address

We take this message to inform you that Azat has started serving the rest of his sentence in the Omutninsk penal colony number 17 after a period of quarantine. He was first assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop, consisting in cleaning sawdust from under the sawmill. Later, he informed his wife that his working conditions have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. He described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through. They left me only socks, panties, gloves and thermal underwear … the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check” he wrote.

We renew our urgent request to the IMU to follow the position adopted by the international mathematical community it represents and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov. The physical and moral integrity of our young colleague are at stake.

The Azat Miftakhov Committee

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Azat Miftakhov writes to his wife about his life in the penal colony number 17 in Omutninsk

Azat Miftakhov said in a telephone conversation with his wife Elena Gorban that his working conditions in the Omutninsk penal colony # 17 have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. The mathematician described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “Idel.Realii” published some excerpts with the consent of the wife of the political prisoner, which we translate below.

I dislike many things here. The stupid militarism, the smart-mouth employees, some of whom communicate extremely dismissively with the convicts, including obscenities, and the prospect of working at a stupid mind-numbing job. All this elicits protest. (…)

When they [the colony authorities] first meet me, they all immediately ask the same question, what kind of [the criminal code] article is this 213rd. 
I explain that it is hooliganism. Employee: “What did you do to misbehave?” “I did not do anything”. He: “What was written in the verdict?” I say that I was accused of vandalizing the United Russia office. He: “Why did you smash it?” “I did not smash, and I have nothing to do with the case,” and I begin to explain about the secret witness, but he no longer listens to me and begins to prove to me that there are no innocent people here … ” (…)

Here is one employee who distinguished himself from the others. When he found out what I was accused of, he asked me sternly: “What are you against Russia? I mean, not United Russia, but Russia?” Me: “ No, I am for the Russian people, but against this party. ”He:“ Is that why it was necessary to smash the office? Have you built anything before you smashed? Did you build a house, planted a tree, raised a child?” I say: “Let’s start with the fact that I have nothing to do with this business … ” Have you been sentenced? Was the sentence confirmed? So, you were involved! “. Almost always during such conversations, a biographical questionnaire is conducted, and in this connection they talk about my education. Then, having learned that I studied and worked at Moscow State University, that I am a mathematician, etc. they claim that everything was fine with me, and I ruined everything myself, being drawn into anarchist movements.” (…)

As for the conditions, there are no complaints.  We live next to the forest, so we sleep well at night. The food here is good, even better than in the Kirov SIZO, and much better than in Butyrka. (…)

At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through.  They left me only socks, panties, gloves and thermal underwear … now I have no T-shirts and pants at all, but there is only a T-shirt and overalls issued by the colony … the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check. (…)

If I had at least some guarantees that for my obedience I can count on parole, say in about in six months, I would probably endure everything and obey the requirements of the administration. But since I expect every trick that could take away my parole, I am considering refusing my assigned work. Sometimes, I think that if they reprimand me for some trifle, like an unbuttoned button on my uniform, this will be sufficient reason for me to do so.

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Novaya Gazeta: MSU graduate student Azat Miftakhov, convicted in the case of the “broken window”, was sent to hard labor in the colony

Translation of an article published on August 24, 2021 in “Novaya Gazeta”.

Anarchist and mathematics graduate student of the Moscow State University Azat Miftakhov, sentenced to six years in prison in the case of a broken window in the office of United Russia, was assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop. This was told to Novaya Gazeta by his wife Elena Gorban.

Now Miftakhov is serving his sentence in correctional colony No. 17 of the Kirov region (Omutninsk). During the visit of a local lawyer Svetlana Frolova, Miftakhov said that after two and a half years in the pre-trial detention center cell, he was sent to clean sawdust from under the sawmill. Miftakhov would like to transfer to a different work assignment.

Relatives of the anarchist, according to Gorban, fear that this work may be chosen as a tactic of pressure on Miftakhov.

“This is hard unreasonable work, which in other colonies is usually automated. If he is sent to a strict, poorly known colony far from the place of his residence, and immediately upon arrival he is given such work, after two and a half years of forced restriction of no physical activity, it may well be a desire to make his remaining term as difficult as possible within the law. But other prisoners who probably do the same job, too, are not in the best conditions either,” Gorban says.

Former political prisoner Ivan Astashin, who has served almost 10 years in prison in the case of the Autonomous Combat Terrorist Organization (banned in the Russian Federation), said in his Telegram channel that in the colonies such sawmills can be automated, and work on the Soviet sawmill, which “has seen Brezhnev”, is “a lesson for masochists”. “I don’t know what’s going on at the production site in Omutninsky IK-17 – the sawdust suction hood broke there, or it’s not installed there at all, so that prisoners don’t have any strength to defend their rights. But one thing I’ll say for sure is that it is very hard for Azat there now. <…> It’s akin to torture,” he wrote.

It became known that Miftakhov was transferred to IK-17 of the Omutninsky district in early August. Prisoners of this colony talked about torture, and their testimony was published by Radio Liberty.

On August 15, Miftakhov came out of quarantine. He said that the administration demands to welcome the colony’s employees with the words “Hello, citizen boss”. He was queued to call his relatives, but so far the anarchist has not had the opportunity to contact his family, says Gorban.

Earlier, the Moscow City Court recognized Miftakhov’s sentence as legal. At the same time, the court excluded the smoke bomb from among the weapons, but the hammer that broke the window in the office of United Russia was retained in the case.

Miftakhov was arrested on February 1, 2019 in Moscow in the case of illegal manufacture of explosives (Part 1 of Art. 223.1 UK), found at a bus stop in Balashikha. The investigation found no evidence indicating the anarchist’s involvement in the case, and Azat was released. At the exit from the detention center, he was detained again in the case of vandalism (Part 1 of Art. 214 of the Criminal Code). Later, the prosecution was reclassified as hooliganism.

On January 18, 2021, the Golovinsky court found Miftakhov guilty of hooliganism motivated by political hatred committed by a group of persons (Part 2 of Art. 213 of the Criminal Code) – January 30, 2018, the defendants in the case attacked the office of United Russia. According to the court, Gorban broke the window with a hammer (she was assigned a suspended sentence), Alexey Kobaidze (wanted) threw a smoke checker into the office, Andrey Yeykin (conditional term) filmed everything that happened on video, Svyatoslav Rechkalov (wanted) published a record on the Internet, and Miftakhov stood close and watched the situation. The whole criminal case is based on the testimony of secret witnesses.