8 Августа 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 807

July 24, 2017


Sometimes you may get jailed for attacking journalists

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Orjonikidze district court in Yekaterinburg on 12 July passed a sentence in the case of father and son Boris and Konstantin Lushchikov, who had beaten up Yermak TV journalists in the AvtoMaster car service shop (see digest 804). The court found them guilty under Criminal Code Articles 144.3 (“Obstructing journalists' lawful professional work aggravated with the use of violence against, and damage to property of, the victims”) and 112 (“Deliberate infliction of medium-gravity bodily harm”). Each of the defendants was sentenced to 21 months in a general-regime penal colony.

As we have reported, a Yermak film crew came to the car service shop at Elmash to shoot a report about the conflict between lawyer Ivan Volkov and the Lushchikovs. The lawyer had ordered changing the wing clearance lights on his wife's car. As a result, he received a bill for 60,000 roubles (approx. 1,000 dollars) for “that and other additional work” done - and this despite no such work had ever been carried out in real terms.

As the Yermak cameraman started filming what was going on, the Lushchikovs attacked the reporters and tore the camera away, leaving the crew members with light bodily harm and inflicting a loss of 979,000 roubles on the TV company by damaging its equipment. The defendants did their best to drag the probe out indefinitely, but the court condemned the wrongdoers in the long run. The prosecution originally asked for 42-month imprisonment for each of the accused. Notably, the sentence has not yet come into full legal force.


Corruption-exposing newspaper/website editor in Novosibirsk convicted posthumously

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

In Novosibirsk, the Sovetsky district court has announced the sentence passed in the case of Pavel Podyachev, who died of a stroke at Prison Hospital No.10 last November at the age of 47. He had been charged with extorting 2 million roubles from Dr. Nikolai Pokhilenko, an MP and member of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to Pavel's acquaintances who lived next door to him in Akademgorodok (Science Town), the charges against him were trumped up by his ill-wishers (see digest 760).

The late Podyachev's public advocate, Alexander Galichanin, gave the Sibkrai news portal these details about the trial: “Defence lawyer Vladimir Larin prepared a long speech highlighting numerous violations committed, in his view, by investigators and the prosecutors' office which confirmed the indictment. Also, he planned to voice allegations about a crime committed against his client. Yet the court didn't let him do that.

“Larin was reprimanded for commenting on the state prosecutor's speech and told he was not entitled to criticize the prosecution's position, which was what the greater part of his statement was based on. Asked how he was supposed to speak further, the court gave him 10 minutes to prepare and threatened to complain to the Bar. Larin said he would be unlikely to get prepared within the 10 minutes allowed; his blood pressure jumped up and he felt dizzy. An ambulance paramedic measured his blood pressure - 200/100 - and diagnosed hypertensic crisis”.

Over the two weeks of that trial, Larin got more reprimands from the judge than over the previous ten years of his work as a defence lawyer, he said.

Finally, the court found Pavel Podyachev guilty of extortion and ruled to close the case in view of the defendant's death.

Pavel's family, friends and colleagues are dissatisfied with that sentence. “Of course, we won't stop at that and will appeal,” Galichanin said. “We are prepared and plan to go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights in the hope that at least one of those authorities - the regional court, the Supreme Court, or the ECHR - takes a good look at what has happened. We expect Pavel to be exonerated sooner or later with his memory immortalized, because people like him need to be remembered”.

Journalist in Omsk barred from court until end of trial over her son

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Judge Litvinov of the Kirovsky district court in Omsk has barred Natalya Gergert, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta - Zapadnaya Sibir, to attend sessions of the trial over her son.

We detailed the case, specifically, in digest 802-803. The lady journalist's son has been accused of posting on his VKontakte social network page a material that had arrived automatically from someone's mailing list; the receiver then deleted it himself, but officials at the “E” (Electronic) Centre had noticed it by that time putting the account owner, who had just finished high school, under close watch.

They kept “working” on him uninterrupted for nearly three years, brining the case finally before a court of law three months ago. The investigators failed to find proofs of the young man's engaging in the distribution of “extremist” stuff, and their falsifications were fully exposed in court. For example, witness Ramzilya Yuldasheva told the court she did not know from whose account or in what social network the “E” Centre specialists had made copies. It had taken them about 20 minutes to make the screenshots, while the investigators reported having spent 4.5 hours on that in the presence of witnesses.

Another witness, a former classmate of the defendant, had first told the investigators and then repeated in court that she had never seen any “pro-Nazi” postings on the young man's VKontakte page, and a lady investigator showed her the screenshots - allegedly from the defendant's account - and asked if the girl could see there any signs of extremism at all. In the course of investigative manipulations, the question “Did the accused ever post any pro-Nazi material?” was actually substituted for by the questions, “What is Nazism?” and “Is it good or bad?” (the investigation evidently had certain doubts as to that).

The case is also notable for the fact that it involves seven witnesses whose names the lady investigator refused to disclose, allegedly caring for their safety: in court, they gave evidence from a neighbouring room using a voice-changing microphone; each of them said the accused had not threatened them in any way. It remained unclear why the investigators were so concerned about their health - evidently, not so much about the latter as about the possibility they might give the “wrong” testimony: it is always easier to question anonymous witnesses who need not even put their signatures under what they say.

One such anonymous witness summoned to court was unexpectedly puzzled by the question who had interviewed him at the Investigative Department - a man or a woman. The awkward pause lasted for several minutes, making Natalya Gergert suggest aloud that the witness might be hoping for a hint what to say. The judge reprimanded her for that remark. The situation then repeated itself as the witness failed to answer a question that would be unlikely to make even a 5-year-old kid think too long. Again, Gergert made a short remark boiling down to her previous supposition. The judge announced he removed her from the courtroom until the entire trial was over; an usher told her to leave - not only the courtroom but the court building as such (Was this a novelty in the rules of procedure?) and did not let her through into another room where another open court sitting was in progress that she wanted to attend as a journalist. “I was lucky enough,” Natalya said, remembering the same usher “dragging” another media outlet's reporter out of the court building a few days earlier.

The main thing that surfaced during the trial over her son is that the case had been trumped up from the very outset - started under Criminal Article 212 (“Organisation of mass protests”) - which then allowed officials to search her house, tap on her phones, etc. As “E” Centre members acknowledged in court, since their suspicions about “preplanned unrests” were not confirmed, they had no right to carry out all those “operative measures” because this was against the law. Yet the court turned down the defence's request to show proofs that the sanctions had officially been asked for.

We will closely follow the process at the Kirovsky district court: neither other journalists nor the GDF correspondent have so far been barred from attending the sittings.

Journalists' request to open criminal proceedings turned down in Dagestan

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

As announced by Dagestan's Ministry of the Interior, police have turned down requests by news website Chernovik correspondents to start criminal proceedings in the wake of officials' reported attempts to obstruct the reporters' professional work. The law enforcers did not find elements of crime in the actions of provocateurs attacking Chernovik journalists.

During an anti-corruption protest rally in Makhachkala on 12 June, a group of young plainclothes individuals would not let the journalists to film the proceedings by either seizing or knocking cell phones from their hands. Also, they attacked Chernovik correspondents Bariyat Idrisova and Saida Vagabova, both of whom filed same-day reports with the police, and the attackers' identifies were established almost instantly. All of the latter belong, according to Chernovik, to close associates of a relative of Dagestan's head, Ramazan Abdulatipov.

Currently, a ruling not to start criminal proceedings in view of no corpus delicti is in force. It is up to the prosecutors to decide whether or not the ruling is lawful.

Norwegian editor turns to court in Petrozavodsk to defend his right to visit Russia

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Thomas Nielsen, editor of the Norway-based publication The Independent Barents Observer, has turned to the city court in Petrozavodsk asking to declare unlawful the actions of the FSB officials who barred him from entering Russia for the next five years.

As we reported (see digest 793), on 8 March 2017, while accompanying a delegation of the Danish parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Nielsen was stopped at a border checkpoint between Norway and Russia. The Russian Embassy to Norwaw announced on 10 March that he had been added to the “stop list” in response to Norway's “joining the signatories of the EU personal sanctions list”.

Now Thomas plans to defend in the court of Petrozavodsk his right to visit this country. His interests will be represented by lawyer Ivan Pavlov.

“Members of the FSB Border Department did not inform Thomas Nielsen about the entry-banning decision and did not provide a copy of that decision or a translator,” Pavlov said in an interview for the 7х7 news website. “Nor did the FSB or Interior Ministry answer his questions about the reasons for the ban. The refusal to provide a copy of a decision is a serious violation of the law-established procedure, and we will challenge the officials' actions. Besides, Thomas' rights were violated to enter Russia, to be informed about the reasons for the entry ban and, last but not least, to freely express his opinion, including the right to work as a professional journalist. It still remains unclear why specifically the entry ban was imposed, or what kind of threat he poses to Russia's national interests”.

Traffic police colonel to be held answerable, after all, for assault and battery in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After eight and a half years, the European Court of Human Rights has finally accepted for review the case of Yekaterinburg-based journalist Yuri Basok, who charged the Sverdlovsk Region traffic police chief with insulting and beating him (see digest 415). The incident occurred during a January 2009 motorists' protest action: as Basok attempted to take pictures of the colonel's Audi parked on a street crossing, the police official smashed the journalist in the face and broke his camera, giving rise to legal proceedings against him under Criminal Code Article 286 (“Exceeding one's official powers”, followed by his dismissal from service. Yet a prosecutor said he saw no elements of crime in Col. Dyomin's actions, and the case was closed during its review by the Verkh-Isetsky court in Yekaterinburg.

Having gone through all existing judicial authorities in Russia - all to no avail - Sutyazhnik firm lawyer Anton Burkov, representing Basok's interests in court, filed a complaint with the ECHR about disruption of his client's attempt to gather information, Burkov told the Ura.ru news agency. Currently the court is reviewing the complaint, while the Russian authorities are preparing a return memorandum. An ECHR decision is expected only in 2018.

If the journalist wins, the European Court will award him a mandatory compensation payable by the Russian authorities. The GDF will keep a watchful eye on further developments.

Media holding fined, its property arrested for debts to journalists in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Sverdlovsky district court in Perm has turned down a request by OOO AktivMedia, a company controlled by RF State Duma deputy Dmitry Skrivanov, a ruling United Russia Party representative, to reduce the regular amount payable by AktivMedia to its workers. The current amount of fine, on which the State Labour Inspectorate has insisted defending the underpaid workers' rights, is 100,000 roubles, versus 30,000 and 60,000 roubles charged earlier.

The GDF reported on three legal claims lodged against AktivMedia by journalists (see digest 800). Seeing inaction on the amicable settlement approved in court on 10 April, Alexander Pastukhov, former head of the social media division, requested the writ of execution and submitted it to the bailiffs. On 16 May, the bailiffs in charge of the Sverdlovsky district of Perm started the execution-against-property process offering the defendant to voluntarily pay off his wage debt of 195,200 roubles within a week's time.

Since nothing of the kind occurred, bailiff Rangel Churiyanovsky on 8 June, in the presence of Pastukhov and two witnesses, made at the Green Plaza Business Centre a protocol of seizure of AktivMedia property found there. The seizure list included 24 Philips monitors, 17 stationary Panasonic telephones, two Tonk mini PCs, and an Epson multicolour printer. One day later Chupriyanovsky estimated the seized property at 50,700 roubles which he later established as a confirmed value of 103,700 roubles.

The district court in Perm with which the media holding filed its complaint declared the bailiff's action as fully lawful. As Pastukhov noted in an interview for the GDF, he had agreed to personally sell the arrested property in a bid to get at least partial compensation for his unpaid wages. Meanwhile, the district Investigative Department had started preliminary check-ups to confirm the claimed facts of the non-payment of wages to workers, the journalist said.

Chief information policy executive in Magadan wins contracts he himself drafts

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Some Magadan-based media have published documents uncovering corruption in the city administration. They noted that Oleg Dudnik, the mayoral official in charge of information policy and contacts with the media, is concurrently the actual owner of the Caribou TV channels and radio station - the particular media outlets beyond municipal control which have repeatedly won contracts for covering the work of Magadan's local self-government bodies.

Meanwhile, the city television channel MTK has for some reason been barred from the contest to promote the city government, has faced serious financial difficulties, and is actually falling apart. Its director, Lyudmila Malysheva, who was invited from Moscow to lead MTK a year ago, has resigned in view of “various, including financial, difficulties facing the channel”.

Oleg Dudnik has more than once caught the GDF's eye. One year ago we reported his filing a lawsuit against Twitter user Natalya Alekseyeva (see digest 761), who had taken part in discussing his rumoured involvement in corrupt practices during his tenure as director of the Magadan Institute of Economics. Although the discussion involved several persons, Dudnik, already head of the Information Policy Department in Magadan, filed his claim to have his honour, dignity and business reputation protected only against Natalya, because he knew she was a journalist. Several courts granted his claims awarding him 16,000 roubles in fine from Alekseyeva - a sum too large for the blogger who had been laid off by the local branch of Argumenty I Fakty, and had failed to find an alternative job. At the date the court ruling was passed, she was officially registered as an unemployed person with the local employment service.

Now this new scandal has flared up - all about corruption again. Although the publications about violations of the State Procurements Law came out more than a month ago, no official comments have followed from either the Magadan mayor's office or the regional administration or parliament.

Newspaper founded in Amur Region a century ago faces financial difficulties

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A rare thing has occurred: Alexander Shcherbinin, general director of the Amurskaya Pravda Publishers', voluntarily halved his monthly salary in view of the dire financial straits his newspaper established in 1918 is finding itself today, on the verge of its 100th anniversary.

The situation is so deplorable that the Amur branch of the Journalists' Union of Russia has made public a statement calling on members of the regional government and deputies of the regional Legislative Assembly not to turn a blind eye to the crisis-stricken oldest regional newspaper but try and find efficient ways to overcome the crisis.

“Based on the results of monitoring carried out by the Amur Union of Journalists, we know that people intentionally go to enroll in libraries in many rural areas to be able to read fresh issues of Amurskaya Pravda,” union chairman Yevgeny Duyunov said. “It's live history of the Amur Region that should continue on and on”.

The call was heeded: on the initiative of regional leader Alexander Kozlov, a working conference has been held attracting regional administration and finance ministry officials, as well as Amurskaya Pravda managers, at which it was decided to provide the funds needed to finance the newspaper's further work.


Human Rights defender Lyudmila Alekseyeva turns 90: “There's Russian intelligentsia…”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Omsk “petitioners” congratulate Lyudmila Alekseyeva on her 90th birthday and bow low to her in acknowledgment of her assistance.

It was ten years ago. We came to her apartment in Moscow's Arbat St., just a few steps away from the monument to Russian poet Bulat Okujava shown walking through an arc toward unceasing eternity. There were seven of us: two village teachers (Irina Drozdova and Anna Tarasenko), farmers Pyotr Shumakov, Anastasia Gordiyenko and Victor Oseyev, a killed soldier's mother, Alma Bukharbayeva, and me.

And that 80-year-old granny (as she called herself), who resembled a Roman lady from an ancient tragedy lifting up her hands to Heaven (she prayed to gods not for her own good but for the good of others), a Presidential Council member and a human rights defender recognized internationally (the “petitioners” knew nothing at the time about her dissident activities during the Soviet era), patiently listened for two and a half hours to their stories - about a freezing village where a boiler house had been switched off but no gas-heating system ever installed instead; grain waste that the authorities had made hundreds of farmers buy under the disguise of elite seed varieties; a soldier's body returned to mother without internal organs and with the command's instruction not to open the coffin…

Alekseyeva listened with her head held high, trying to grasp the most essential things while brushing aside with a gesture of slender arms the not-so-important or redundant ones; she requested more details, and she looked as if trying to discern something in remote stretches of land where the fields of law still remained unploughed and the roads to truth and justice were as unknown as before.

As it turned out, the “petitioners” had no other place to go in search of those roads - only to this “den of dissidence” next to the monument to a publicly-adored bard, an exemplary member of the Russian intelligentsia.

Prior to that, they had gone to the State Duma and Moscow White House; had more than once met with the leaders of all parliamentary factions; had also appealed to the Presidential Administration, the State Prosecutor's Office, Interior Ministry and FSB, but no official had helped them in any way (or at least had tried to do something meaningful - with the exception, they say, of only one deputy, Oleg Smolin).

“You can't just walk into a big boss' office,” Pyotr Shumakov said. “I don't know how things are today, but only a couple of years ago they wouldn't let you through into the Agriculture Ministry building without a bagful of `essentials' such as honey, butter, or salted pig fat with garlic, all fresh from the farm; and be sure to bring a bottle of vodka as well - they preferred `Gzhelka', for all I can remember. They see it as a kind of tradition, you know, for petitioners to come with gifts while not getting in return at least a cup of tea after a 3,000-kilometre trip to Moscow. You start telling them about your troubles, but they don't care a bit. One high-ranking official (we will refrain from naming him in the absence of proofs - Author.) sat back in his chair and dozed off as I was telling him about problems I faced - can you imagine that?”

“And those bastards dare call Lyudmila Alekseyeva `the fifth column!' Shumakov exclaimed angrily. “We, too, tried once to hand her some gifts - but she gave us a scolding, saying we shouldn't attempt anything like that again. And she helps people free of charge: her lawyers, very serious folks, sifted through heaps of documents for me and didn't take a rouble - unlike officials or MPs, who are always unwilling to act and giving you the runaround instead. The Moscow Helsinki Group's lawyers dig deep and hard. It was they who helped me cope with all those fabricated lawsuits lodged against me - I could never have done that alone. Each time I come to Moscow, I call Lyudmila right away. And she asks how Irina Drozdova and Alma are doing, and sends her best regards to all, including you. She remembers everyone by name and keeps each person's case in her memory. She says, c'mon, Pyotr, you may call me any time! And I've indeed had to bother her late at night a couple of times over some really serious matters. She always picks up the phone herself: yes, she's that kind of person, although she's lived a very long life. I'll tell you, I guess when someone lives for others' sake, without sparing oneself the God extends their lives and gives them the strength to live on. Please congratulate Lyudmila on our behalf and tell her we're enormously grateful to her”.

Said Irina Drozdova, a schoolteacher from the village of Verkhniy Karbush and a local council member: “I don't think one could find anyone like Lyudmila Alekseyeva in this country anymore. I couldn't say how many people she has helped or is helping: the region of Omsk surely isn't the single place where folks come from asking for her assistance. I remember her sheltering Krasnodar farmer Pyotr Shcherbak at her country house when he was chased by law enforcement (another farmer, Vassily Melnichenko from the Urals, too, got `political asylum' at the same dacha at one time; today, he is the leader of the Federalny Selsovet (Federal Farmers' Council) movement - Author.) And do you remember how we went on a hunger-strike in Verkhniy Karbush? She would call from abroad nearly every day while officials in Omsk remained indifferent about how things were with us. Well, I can tell you a lot about her - for example, how she, an 80-year-old woman with a walking stick in hand, led the Farmers' Assembly through Moscow's Red Square - on a terribly hot day! Who else of our political and public leaders, not to mention those at the helm, could match her in that?”

Poet Andrei Voznesensky wrote these lines: “There's the Russian intelligentsia - no, you say? Yes, there is. It's not an indifferent mass but this country's conscience and honour. [Pianist Svyatoslav] Richter and [philologist Sergei] Averintsev reveal character traits of [19th-century Russian] district doctors, because they are intellectuals, and they are honest”. The intellectuals are still to be found. At least one is represented by Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alekseyeva. In today's Russia, she is the closest to the “ordinary people”.


Voronezh Election Committee amends rules of accreditation for journalists

The Mass Media Defence Centre and several Voronezh-based media outlets have successfully challenged at the prosecutor's office what they thought were unlawful provisions regarding accreditation with the regional Election Committee.

The committee altered the accreditation rules eliminating, among other items, the requirements to coordinate with it publications prior to printing; to “objectively and truthfully” cover its activities, etc. Committee head Sergei Kanishchev has noted the committee “met the journalists halfway” by correcting “legal errors”. The Media Defence Centre praised the committee for its “quick and substantial reaction” but highlighted a disputable point remaining in the document - one about defending committee members' honour and dignity, which is “capable of provoking a conflict over nothing”.

The collective appeal to change the rules of accreditation, written by Media Defence Centre lawyer Diana Veretennikova and signed by the chief editors of the newspapers Moyo and Kommuna, regional branches of Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Kommersant, and news portals RBK-Chernozemye and Novosti Voronezha also addressed clauses reducing the group of journalists seeking accreditation only to those representing registered media and excluding online outlets. The controversial document was adopted at an April Election Committee meeting and amended in June.

[Report by Kommersant-Chernozemye]

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
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