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Investigation into charges against Mikhail Savva completed

24 September 2013

By Anna Perova, Krasnodar

Source: Kommersant

The criminal case against Mikhail Savva, director of grant programmes at the Southern Regional Resource Centre, has been sent to the prosecutor's office for confirmation of the indictment. Mr. Savva, who has been in custody since April this year, is charged with two episodes of fraud, including the misuse of a grant of 366,000 roubles received from the regional administration that was spent on a sociological survey. According to Marina Dubrovina, Mikhail Savva's lawyer, there is no evidence of Savva's guilt.

Marina Dubrovina told Kommersant that her client had finished reading the 24 volumes of the case materials, and the case has been passed on to the prosecutor's office for confirmation. The criminal investigation by the FSB of Krasnodar region began in April this year under Article 159.2, Section 2, of the Criminal Code (fraud in obtaining funds). A second defendant in the case is director of Pilot, a marketing agency, Viktoria Remmler. 

The final version of the charges includes two episodes in which Professor Sawa was allegedly involved: the theft of a grant from the regional administration, as well as illegal remuneration at the Kuban State University to the sum of 90,000 roubles. According to the investigation, in August 2012, Mikhail Savva, then manager of grants at a non-profit organization of which he was in practical terms the head, developed a project, entitled "Building Peace", which won a grant of 820,000 roubles in a grant competition run by the regional administration. A sum of 366,000 roubles of this grant was intended to pay for a piece of research entitled "The potential for the socialization of migrants in Krasnodar region". According to the investigators, the amount was credited to the account of the Pilot agency, and then stolen.

"There is no evidence that the funds were removed from the bank and given by Viktoria Remmler to Professor Sawa,” lawyer Marina Dubrovina told Kommersant. “Nor is it proven at all that Mikhail Savva had the authority to withdraw funds from the bank account of the SRRC." According to Kommersant, the research into the socialization of migrants was conducted by the Centre for Sociological and Political Studies, whose director is also a Viktoria Remmler. The work was completed, and the regional administration had no complaints about the quality of research. However, these circumstances have not been examined in the course of the investigation.

The second episode with regard to which Mikhail Savva has been charged concerns the salary he received at Kuban State University for a course of lectures, which, according to the prosecution, he did not actually give. Since Professor Sawa's detention in April this year, his defence lawyer has repeatedly petitioned for him to be released on bail. However, Savva remains in custody at the FSB detention centre to this day.

Human rights activist Valery Borshchev, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, believes that the case against Mikhail Savva could become a "trial balloon" for the possible prosecution of other NGO activists for crimes against the state. "The investigation from the outset took an active interest in the foreign travel of Professor Sava and his contacts with foreigners, which could be interpreted as a sign of anti-state activity," he told Kommersant. He pointed out that at the end of last year, amendments to the Criminal Code concerning "treason", "espionage" and "divulging state secrets" entered into force. These amendments introduced criminal liability not only for direct cooperation with foreign intelligence services, but also for any help given to a foreign state or an international organization if their activities are directed against Russian security. "Perhaps the secret services had planned a political show trial against an NGO activist, but the media and public attention the case has attracted have not allowed them to do this," Valery Borschev said.