Lev Ponomarev on Igor Sechin and the trial of Aleksei Ulyukaev [Radio SOL]

posted 11 Dec 2017, 04:03 by Website Service   [ updated 11 Dec 2017, 04:05 ]

14 November 2017

Lev Ponomarev, executive director of For Human Rights, in conversation with Valentina Ivakina of Radio Sol [extract]

Moscow Helsinki Group [original sourceRadio SOL]

[…] Valentina Ivakina: Our next topic of discussion is Sechin. At present the media and many human rights activists are wondering whether Igor Sechin will be successfully dragged into court. He is a key witness in the case of ex-minister Aleksei Ulyukaev. The media report that he was twice issued a summons to court, but has not yet appeared.

Lev Ponomarev: This is very interesting. I like that everything is very clear here. And whatever ideological clichés the propagandists came out with on state television, regarding a conspiracy against Sechin, a plot by the state department or CIA, I don’t know in advance how that’s going to look. I don’t watch these channels and I don’t know how they are portraying it.

But the situation is absolutely clear. It happened that the court summoned Sechin to give testimony. The first time around his colleagues refused to accept the application. The court reiterated that they are sending a summons. And he certainly can’t dodge receiving it. And if he fails to come a second time, then the court should decide to bring him in by force. And what Sechin will do then, I don’t know.

It’s all clear: the court cannot for a third time not take the decision to bring him by force; that is, the bailiff must go to Sechin’s office and say, “Come with me to the court session.” And that moment will be extremely important, because it’s psychologically important for the whole system that is established in Russia.

In Russia wild corporate capitalism established itself, when a small group of people who had got access to resources usurped the authorities, and they became billionaires before our eyes. This is not down to Sechin, he’s not a big entrepreneur who started with nothing and thanks to his talents became such a big entrepreneur. He received this money simply as a gift. He got everything as a gift. But at the same time he behaves as if he’s above the rest of us.

This is a person who absolutely despises our Russian laws, who is obviously inimical to them. There are many revelations about him. Besides, Rosneft is not a prosperous company, far from it, and so on.

But at the same time we know that this is the second most influential person in Russia. The first is Putin, and the second Sechin. And circumstances arose such that he should go to court, but he doesn’t want to. Clearly if he didn’t come the first and second time, he was spitting on our Russian court. I have to say, we know this often happens. But then there’s the question of how the courts behave; that is, courts themselves often behave unjustly, they often don’t pursue people who have great political clout, they avoid that.

Our judicial system is tame, it avoids passing judgement on those people who are close to the authorities. And in this case I don’t even know why it all happened, what they summoned him for, whether it was possible not to call him to testify – that must be discussed separately. But once he is summoned, this process cannot stop, and it will be interesting to see how he behaves. Or the judge will change his mind anyway, and the court will show itself up again.

Valentina Ivakina: And might they change their minds? Can they do that?

Lev Ponomarev: When the courts are not independent, they can do anything. And the opposition will shout that our courts are controlled by the authorities, but who doesn’t already know that? Everyone knows that the courts in Russia are not independent. Ask people on the street if they trust the Russian courts and I bet more than half will say no. There have been polls showing that. The Russian courts have long since been discredited. It’s a kind of controlled structure.

Sometimes they do make a just decision. When people are arguing with each other or ordinary citizens are suing each other, then it is possible to get a fair trial. But when one of the parties is someone close to those in power or someone who has power, someone like Sechin for example, then the ordinary citizen will almost definitely lose the case.

Everyone has known this about our courts for a long time, it’s no secret. But it turns out that Sechin’s opponents have been trying their hardest, for some reason, and chances are it’s the public prosecutor’s office. And if somebody asked me what was going on, I would say it’s a complete mess. I don’t know anything about the power struggles, but the only way I can understand it is that the public prosecutor’s office initially made transcripts of the conversation between Sechin and Ulyukaev public. They were leaked, you know, and the fact that a minister was being recorded by an ordinary police investigator was big news.

For Sechin, it was like he’d been stripped naked in front of everyone. He was completely exposed, his snitch-like personality was exposed, despite the fact that he’s the second most powerful man in Russia. And he obviously wasn’t happy about it.

Valentina Ivakina: He’s been cooperating with the investigation, but now they’re saying that if Sechin doesn’t turn up at court, he could be facing four months in prison.

Lev Ponomarev: Yes, they have to force him to show up. A court bailiff will simply go and suggest to Sechin that he goes with him.

Valentina Ivakina: It is difficult to say what will happen next. Do you think it’s likely that the court will change its mind and not summon Sechin?

Lev Ponomarev: One would think that that’s the easiest way out for the authorities. I think that the judge will receive a phone call from somewhere, from the presidential administration perhaps, and she’ll change her mind. I think that’s what will most likely happen.

Valentina Ivakina: But it is also being said that Igor Sechin is a key witness and without his testimony, Aleksei Ulyukaev may not be found guilty.

Lev Ponomarev: The scenario has already been written and I think it will follow this scenario exactly.

It’s always possible, of course, that a particular judge may feel that he or she could go down in the history of the Russian justice system as the first independent judge of the Putin era to behave independently in a trial that has great political significance.

I don’t know the person who’s conducting the trial, it might be that they’re amazing enough to do it. I would certainly applaud them if they did. It’s possible, why not believe in people? But it would be an extraordinary event.

Translated by Anna Bowles and Nicky Brown