On the evening on January 23rd, Viktor Filinkov, a twenty-three-year-old software engineer, was at the departures terminal in Pulkovo Airport, in St. Petersburg, waiting to board a flight to Minsk. From there, Filinkov planned to catch a connection to Kiev, where his wife, Alexandra, was living. He never made it. Filinkov was approached by several men who identified themselves as agents from the F.S.B., a successor agency of the K.G.B., and took him to a waiting dark-blue minivan. What happened next, according to Filinkov, was a five-hour-long torture session, which ended with Filinkov in jail, awaiting trial on charges that could send him to prison for up to ten years.
Filinkov is formally accused of belonging to a terrorist organization, part of a sprawling case against nine young men in St. Petersburg and Penza, a town four hundred miles southeast of Moscow, who, to varying degrees, identify as anti-Fascists or anarchists, or have overlapping friends in those communities. Those detained, according to the F.S.B., have been planning a violent uprising, aimed at “stirring up the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country.” The F.S.B.claims the group calls itself Syet, or the Network.