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Friday, 27 April 2018


Yuri Skrylnikov: A fictional spy story

14.01.2013  |  22:31

Yuri Skrylnikov: A fictional spy story. 28923.jpeg

Yesterday at 9 am in Tbilisi, on the Matrosov Street, outside the gates of the prison No 9, a crowd gathered. Not to hand over a swap and not to meet "their" prisoners. This day was special. People were waiting for the release of the prisoners "forgiven" by the Georgian authorities. Among those gathered at the gate there was an old man, who was met not by the relatives, but by a crowd of Russian journalists. This man is Yuri Skrylnikov, Russian citizen convicted by Saakashvili of spying. GTimes reporter also met him.

This morning an incredible amount of people has gathered at the gates of the prison No 9. The crowd is excited, there is a hum. I walked into the crowd, in its very center. When buzz dissipates, I can already make out snatches of conversation - words of prayer, stories, swearing at someone's address and gratitude to God or Ivanishvili. A woman holds white paper. I ask her the sheet of paper for the cameraman to set up the balance of the camera, and I notice with wonder and awe the Psalms recorded on the paper. Everyone is trying to calm the emotions differently. Hundreds of people are ready to shed a tear. Their eyes were literally glued to the heavy green gate.

Finally, in the gap between the gate and the ground I see someone's shoes. I can see that the crowd hasn't noticed this, so the suddenly opened gates do not produce special effect. The group of prisoners breaks loose. They wave their hands, waiting to greet. They rush towards the waiting crowd.

All blended into one jubilant organism. This moment I noticed a man standing aside, without a coat, in just one sweater, worn over a shirt. He has gray hair; he is holding a colorful bag with personal belongings. His hand, he is trying to protect his eyes from the sun, to see a familiar face. But there are no familiar faces in the crowd. Yuri Skrylnikov is the only released prisoners, whose family does not meet him today. Even journalists, specially seconded from Moscow for a meeting with this person, have not noticed him yet.

When his gets surrounded by journalists, he is extremely happy. He smiled to each of them with a separate smile and willingly answered all questions. He stood in the cold all the time - with no coat, assuring everyone that he was even a little hot, "probably because of euphoria". When one of the journalists started smoking, I caught sight of Yuri Dmitrievich. At this point, he said: "Now, perhaps, it is already possible to smoke?" And pulled out a stack of "Pirveli". He was searching for a matchbox in the other pocket for a long, long time, until someone has thought to take his bag with personal belongings, which he held in the hands during the interview. Someone gave a lighter.

Journalist of the "Channel One" said a phrase that unpleasant slashed hearing: "The first cigarette at large?" Skrylnikov smoked it as he used to smoke the last two years and eight months - hiding inside the palm. Cameramen tried to shoot the cigarette in his hand, searching for proper angles. He was not nervous, angry or offended. He just stood there, smoking and taking back his duffel bag. He seemed to be happy and feel safe, until the crowd was around him. And there were a lot of curious people. Everyone was wondering, who is this man who is talking to the press for the past hour. Even the local gypsies stopped moaning and begging for money. Owner of a small store came out and kindly offered a recent prisoner a cup of coffee. Skrylnikov headed toward him. "Girls, do not leave me", he told reporters. And the "girls" went to the store with him. Journalist of the TV channel "Russia" always walked with him by the hand - they seemed to be personally acquainted.

Yuri Skrylnikov was in the store for 20 minutes, drinking Turkish coffee and smoking cigarettes one by one. It seemed to me that only now he finally felt a little free. This is where he told us about his undermined health, a stroke, a hypertensive crisis and the operation. He spoke not complaining, like if he spoke about a stranger. "They did not beat me, did not abuse my mother, in general, treated well", he spoke about the prison staff. Starting from the imprisonment he has changed 13 places. "I always thought, my head was so busy with thinking that I could not read the books, only magazines sometimes".

Despite the fact that today, no one of his family appeared unable to meet him, Yuri Skrylnikov spoke particularly warm about his sons Ruslan and Eduard. He also remembered his granddaughter Milena, whom he has not seen yet.

Employees of the Russian consulate were to come soon to take him. We call there every 15 minutes and got the invariable answer: "We'll be there in 10 minutes". And Skrylnikov shows no shadow of anxiety, he's full of patience. He is ready to meet anyone in the world.

When employees of the Russian consulate finally arrived and took Skrylnikov, I felt a little unsettling. I wonder whether his misfortunes are over. Or he has yet to respond to a bunch of questions to prove something and make excuses? In parting, I told him, "Well, now all is over". Yuri Skrylnikov said with a fleeting sadness: "I hope so".


Kama Rzayeva


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