"I raved about the sea since childhood"

At the end of January, a resident of Moscow Svetlana Vasilieva contacted the RT editorial office, whose son has been detained in Greece for two and a half years. The yacht, managed by Anatoly Vasiliev, was heading from Turkey to Italy, when in the summer of 2017 she was detained by the coast guard.

Since then, Vasilyeva unsuccessfully tried to find out exactly what her son is accused of - Anatoly himself, while in custody, occasionally got in touch, but did not tell any details.

“Tolya from childhood raved about the sea. He was born in Salekhard, we have many rivers there and already in two years he loved to watch the ships passing through them for hours. He has two higher educations, he is a signalman. He served in the army in the Black Sea Fleet, on a patrol ship, there, too, the service was connected with communications, he even had a five-year FSB ban on traveling abroad. After studying in Moscow at another university, he began to work on a river boat on the Yamal Peninsula, but, of course, dreamed of more. Toiled without the sea, very actively looking for the work of a sailor, scattered resumes everywhere, ”a woman tells about her son.

The captain of a small yacht Anita, assigned to the port of Riga, came to Anatolia. He invited Vasilyev to become his assistant and go to Turkey to ride tourists on a yacht. Despite the fact that Anatoly had mixed impressions with the captain, in February 2017 the young man flew to Istanbul, from where tourists had to be transported to Europe.

According to Svetlana Vasilyeva, at first everything went well - the son was glad that, finally, he was able to realize his dream of the sea. After some time, the ship's captain went on business to Moscow, leaving Vasilyev for the elder on the ship.

The mother of the sailor still almost does not know the details of all further misadventures of her son. After the yacht was detained, this happened at the end of July or August 2017, the social network captain, who was in Russia, wrote to her on social networks, and he began to make claims to her. As Vasilyeva now understands, the man, after the vessel was detained, most likely suspected that he could become a victim of fraud on the part of Anatoly and decided to put pressure on his assistant's relatives.

  • © Photo from the personal archive of Svetlana Vasilyeva

“There were almost threats on his part. Considering that I didn’t understand what was at all, because there was no information from Tolya, my daughter and I became frankly scared and I didn’t communicate with him anymore, ”the woman said.

Svetlana Vasilieva says that during the whole time since the moment of detention she occasionally managed to occasionally communicate with her son on the phone, but she failed to get specific information from him about what was happening.

“He reassured everything, said that apparently something with the documents was not in order, but there was no specifics from him, and I did not want to press. At first he was in Athens; since April 2018 he has been kept in the prison of the city of Larisa. This situation continued until the end of last year, when, after the first reports of the prosecution of our sailors in Greece, I realized that my son could become a victim of fraud and be involved in something similar, ”said Vasilyeva.

She tried to get information about her son through official channels, but to no avail. Back in 2018, she wrote to the President of the Russian Federation, her appeal was forwarded to the Russian Foreign Ministry, but she received no answer from there. Vasilyeva also tried to inquire at the Russian embassy in Greece.

“They didn’t pick up the phone at first, I wrote emails, there were two answers from the secretary to clarify his passport data and that’s all - there weren’t any more answers,” the woman says.

About the fate of the other detained crew members of the yacht Anita, along with Anatoly she was still a few Russian-speaking sailors, the woman also does not know anything.

“I now have just some kind of despair from this unknown. Yes, he’s alive, but what’s wrong with him, why he’s in prison, when he returns, these questions simply haunt us, ”said the sailor’s mother.

25 years for migrants

RT appealed to the Russian Embassy in Greece with a request to inquire and clarify the fate of Anatoly Vasiliev. It turned out that Russian diplomats had information about him.

“Anatoly Vasiliev in December 2017 was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the transport of migrants. In Greece, this is one of the most serious crimes, and the terms there are always very long. He was held at Koridallos Prison in Athens for some time, but he is not there at the moment, ”Vasily Gavrilov, press attache of the Russian embassy in Athens, told RT.

Svetlana courageously accepted the news of the impressive prison term of Anatoly, at least the situation for her was partially clarified.

After that, she was able to briefly talk with her son, who, reluctantly, confirmed the information obtained by RT.

At the same time, the sailor still asks his mother not to take any action, not to attract media attention to his case, and even forbade her to transmit her photographs to journalists.

“I don’t understand why he behaves like this. It doesn't look like him at all. Perhaps there are some circumstances that we do not know about, but either he does not believe that something can be done, he is afraid of something. When I just told him that I had turned to the media and complained that he had been hiding the truth from me for so long, he stopped contacting me. I listened to him for a very long time and couldn’t endure this situation in the media, but while this topic has been heard, journalists and lawyers seem to be actively involved in our sailors, I hope diplomats have begun to work more actively, ”says Vasilyeva.

  • © Photo from the personal archive of Svetlana Vasilyeva

The chat, which was created by the relatives of the detained Russian sailors to coordinate actions and exchange news, now includes close 18 of the 26 detainees in Greece.

“Among them, my son was detained before everyone else, so in the summer it will be three years since he sits there. And all this time I alone tried to survive this somehow, hoping that everything would be resolved soon. Recently I joined this community and I hope that together we will be able to help our children, ”says Vasilyeva, who, due to a number of chronic health problems, fears that she may not live to see her son return home.

“We do our best within the framework of authority”

The press officer of the Russian embassy also told RT that the consulate is doing everything possible for detainees within its very limited powers.

“Diplomats visit sailors in prisons, especially those in the Coridallos prison in Athens. Consulate employees try to attend trials, for example, on February 27 there was a trial of two sailors in Patras, ”said Vasily Gavrilov.

He said that the embassy itself cannot act as a lawyer for the detained Russians.

“We can attend court hearings, monitor the conditions of our compatriots in places of deprivation of liberty, and petition for their improvement. Often, we from the Greek side do not receive information about the court hearings held, the sentences handed down, we, of course, also can not intervene in the course of the investigation or trial. Under international law, the authorities are obliged to inform us only about the fact of the initial detention of our citizen, ”the diplomat noted, stressing that in any case, all detained Russians are provided with an interpreter and a free lawyer by the authorities.

According to Gavrilov, currently 26 Russian sailors are detained in Greece, who are suspected of transporting illegal migrants or have already been convicted under this article.

The embassy’s press officer also noted that prisoners in Greece are often released ahead of schedule, sometimes within a few years.

“Usually all this is decided individually, taking into account the severity of the crime and behavior, there are no clear-cut algorithms here,” he concluded.

“Everything fell on this topic”

The editor-in-chief of the Russian Athens portal Pavel Onoiko, who is actively involved in the problem of sailors detained in Greece from the post-Soviet space, expressed an opinion in an interview with RT that there are few chances of being released from prisoners for transporting migrants in the coming years.

“Especially early on such matters no one is released. Honestly, I do not know anyone who came out ahead of schedule on this article. There is talk that about 8 years should pass and then it is already possible to talk about early release, and then if good behavior, cooperation. To leave before special hopes, I think not. But this is in the current situation with migrants in Greece. Perhaps everything will somehow change, including in the direction of tightening, ”he added.

Onoiko notes that after very harsh sentences to some sailors against the backdrop of a wide resonance in the Russian media about a month ago, negotiations took place in Greece between Russian lawyers who volunteered to represent the interests of Russians, with the local community for helping sailors and a local lawyer, the situation calmed down again.

“I don’t know what’s the matter, maybe we somehow didn’t agree on money, but now everything has come up on this topic. And by law, only local lawyers can work in Greece, ”he added.

“Don't be fooled”

At the end of December 2019, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on the topic of Russian sailors in Greece.

“The Russians themselves claim that they were involved in this activity fraudulently. Through social networks and in personal contacts, recruiters allegedly offered highly paid jobs on ships engaged in cruise activities. Only when they arrived, did the citizens understand that this was a completely different matter, ”said Zakharova.

The Foreign Ministry warned the Russians about the need to be extremely careful when looking for a job abroad, especially if it is not about reputable, well-established companies, but about random people, accounts on social networks, unverified structures.

“No need to be fooled - promises of high pay for regular routine work are always associated with the implementation of any illegal actions. Moreover, the punishment overtakes just those who perform this work. Customers, as a rule, manage to remain unpunished. Irresponsibility and frivolity in such situations can be fraught with the most serious consequences, said Zakharova. - This does not mean at all that now Russian citizens will not defend themselves and our consular missions abroad will not provide them with support and assistance. But at the same time, we must still deal with the prevention of such cases and situations. ”

Anatoly Vasiliev, so to speak, is relatively “lucky”. By the standards of Greece, his 25-year term for the transport of migrants is very small. Local justice clearly links the number of illegal migrants found on the ship to the final punishment for transporting them. At the end of January, a local court appointed Russian sailors Anatoly Karramov and Platon Davydov to 395 years in prison.