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Vera Vasilieva: Aleksei Pichugin's 14 Years Behind Bars without a Fair Trial. The latest ruling of the European Court of Human Rights

posted 2 Jul 2017, 06:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Jul 2017, 06:47 ]

18 June 2017 

19 June 2017 marks fourteen years that the unlawfully convicted Aleksei Pichugin has been behind bars. He has been recognised by the Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) as a political prisoner. 

The fact that the former Yukos employee is serving life imprisonment without lawful grounds has now been shown by two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. 

For 14 years Aleksei Pichugin has been behind bars without a fair court decision, eight of which have been spent in the strictest conditions at the Black Dolphin prison colony. In my opinion this is comparable to sentences from the Stalin era. 

The political prisoner was twice convicted in violation of the right to a fair trial enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. 

This means that the sentence handed down on 6 August 2007 by Moscow City Court judge Petr Shtunder (as well as that of Judge Natalia Olikhver on 30 March 2005), about which has already written, should be quashed. 

This is the point of the ruling, and not the monetary compensation of 15,000 euros which was reported on by an overwhelming majority of the media, while they failed to mention what was most important. Why half-truths have been spread in the media is another issue. After all, the violations that have been revealed are so all-encompassing and blatant that in my opinion not to talk about them would be not to talk about the ECtHR ruling. 

So what exactly did the Strasbourg court establish in the Pichugin case? 

In the first place, the decision of the ECtHR, which has been translated into Russian, talks about the violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence. This is one of the fundamental principles of criminal justice. No one can be considered guilty until their guilt is proven by due legal process and established by a court verdict that has entered into force. 

According to the facts set out in the judgment of the ECtHR, on 5 June 2005 – that is, literally the day after charges were formally laid against Pichugin in his second prosecution – pronouncements of his guilt were broadcast on federal TV channels. 

These statements came from Vladimir Kolesnikov, then Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, and Yury Burtovoi, leader of the investigative group in Pichugin’s case. 

Note also that Aleksei had previously drawn attention to these statements a preliminary hearing at Moscow City Court on 9 July 2007: “Even at the preliminary stage of the investigation into this criminal case, on 5 June 2005 Deputy Prosecutor General V.V. Kolesnikov publicly stated on the ORT and NTV TV channels that I was guilty of the charges laid against me. Likewise at the stage of preliminary stage of the investigation, on 11 September 2005, Yu. A. Burtovoi, head of the group of investigators in the case, appearing on the TVTs channel’s “Moment of Truth” programme, stated that I was guilty of the charges laid against me. And because of this I had to abandon the prospect of a jury trial.” 

At that stage, before the trial proper at Moscow City Court had yet started, Aleksei planned to request that his case be heard by jury. But because of the nature of the TV broadcasts, he was forced to give up his right to a jury trial. After all, jurymen and women also watch TV and they can see declarations made by prosecutors that are broadcast. As a result, before the trial was held, public opinion was already being persuaded that Pichugin was guilty. 

Pichugin also sought to appeal against the actions of his accusers in Moscow’s Tver and Basmanny district courts. 

But Tver district court ruled that the information announced had been established by the investigation and confirmed by the materials of the criminal case, while the Deputy Prosecutor General had legal grounds for his actions and had not violated the rights of the applicant. 

Basmanny court also dismissed Pichugin’s application on the grounds that the statement by Burtovoi was his personal opinion. 

Secondly, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the refusal by Moscow City Court to take into account the opinion of graphologist Volodina was unlawful. At issue was the authorship of a note which contained the Vienna address of Еvgeny Rybin, a victim in the case and manager of the Austrian company East Petroleum Handels. The prosecution alleged that this note was written by Aleksei Pichugin and gave instructions to those who carried out the crime. 

Yet Volodin considered that the examples of Pichugin’s handwriting provided for comparative analysis were insufficient to draw any conclusion of the kind. During the 2007 trial Aleksei Pichugin had requested that a new evaluation be conducted, but the chair of the panel of judges, Petr Shtunder, refused his request, saying there was no need for additional analysis. 

The judgment in the case of Pichugin v Russia handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is final and cannot be appealed. On the day of its publication, 6 June, the Ministry of Justice of Russia hurriedly issued a statement that the ruling of the Strasbourg Court does not automatically quash Pichugin’s conviction. 

That is certainly the case. The European Court never interferes in national judicial proceedings, does not consider criminal cases on their merits, neither hands down judgments nor quashes them. It merely pronounces on violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia is obliged to observe. 

In cases when a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights is found, new legal proceedings are necessary. According to Articles 413 and 415 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure, when violations of fair trial have been found, a person has the right to a review of their case on the grounds of new circumstances. 

Now the lawyers of Aleksei Pichugin can made the appropriate request to Vyacheslav Lededev. Moreover, according to the law, this is not even required. The chair of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is bound to initiate legal proceedings on the basis of new circumstances. 

Meanwhile, Russia has yet to quash Pichugin’s first conviction, although the European Court of Human Rights indicated the necessity of doing this in its judgment back in 2012. 

How will the Supreme Court react on this occasion? 

Translated by Anna Bowles and Simon Cosgrove

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Sergei Davidis on the "March 26" case: A new “Bolotnaya” for Navalny’s supporters

posted 19 Jun 2017, 05:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jun 2017, 05:37 ]

8 June 2017

By Sergei Davidis

Source: [original source: Дом свободной России

On March 26, 2017, Russia witnessed its largest demonstrations since the protest wave of 2011-12. Some aspects of the March 26 protests had no precedents in the past decade. The government reacted to the organization of such mass protests in a not atypical manner, with repression and threats.

It is possible that no fewer than 100,000 people hit the streets in around 100 Russian cities, issuing anti-corruption demands at the prompting of Alexei Navalny—despite the fact that in most of the cities, the protests were illegal, having not been approved by the authorities.

In central Moscow, where the mayor, in violation of the law, refused to approve the protest, between 15,000 and 30,000 people took to the streets. It was perhaps the largest demonstration to take place without the government’s permission in the capital since the early 1990s.

The March 26 demonstrations marked the end of the post-2012 decline in protests in Russia, giving rise to a sense of hope in society.

In the lead-up to March 26, the majority of protests failed to receive official permission. In various cities, there were many attempts to prevent the protests through pressure on organizers and participants.

Although all protests were peaceful, participants were detained in many cities.

In total, across Russia, more than 1,500 people were wrongfully detained, with no fewer than 1,043 of them in Moscow—far more than at any other protest in the past decade.

Unwarranted and unlawful detainment was frequently carried out in a crude way, with established procedure violated and physical force applied. Many of the demonstrators who were detained were also beaten.

According to the authorities, a police officer was injured at the protest in Moscow. It was asserted that he was kicked in the head by a person who then escaped. (As it turned out, the police officer had been involved in the Bolotnaya case as the alleged victim of Ivan Nepomnyashchy. Then, no specific harm had been done to him.)

A criminal case was already opened on March 26 in connection with the incident. The charge: violation of Article 317 of the Russian Criminal Code, or making an attempt on the life of an employee of a law enforcement agency, punishable by up to life in prison.

During the night of March 26-27, Investigative Committee detectives visited about half of the 50 Moscow police stations where demonstrators were being held, questioning them.

Two days later, it was announced that other criminal cases were being opened, over violations of Article 213 (hooliganism, punishable by up to 5 years in prison) and Article 318 (violence toward representatives of the authorities, punishable by up to 10 years in prison).

Soon thereafter, lawyers revealed that the unit investigating these charges numbered between 100 and 150 detectives.

Many of these detectives also belong to the unit responsible for the Bolotnaya case, and helped falsify evidence of the guilt of those charged and prosecuted in that affair.

The head of the new investigative group Major General Rustam Gabdulin also heads the investigative group on the “Bolotnaya case.”

Within the scope of the criminal cases opened at the end of March and in the first half of April, a 28-year-old sociologist and actor Yury Kuly, 40-year-old joiner Aleksandr Shpakov, 32-year-old builder Stanislav Zimovets, and 31-year-old goods transporter Andrei Kosykh were arrested and remanded in custody.

Later, on 14 May, 33-year-old engineer Dmitry Krepkin was also arrested and placed in pre-trial detention.

All, with the exception of Kosykh, were charged under Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code, i.e. with the use of non-lethal and non-health-threatening force against police.

Kosykh is accused of striking two police officers, one of whom received as a consequence trauma to the head. The case was initiated because of this episode, a case under Article 317 (endangering the life of a police officer), but it is not known whether charges have already been brought against him in this regard.

Kuliy is accused of having grabbed an officer by the shoulder, thus causing him pain, Shpakov, of , having struck an officer twice, resulting in two lesions, Zimovets of hitting an officer in the buttock with a brick, and Krepkin of striking an officer in the thigh.

Shpakov and Krepkin were seriously beaten during their arrest on 26 March, as a result of which they sustained bodily injuries confirmed by doctors.

The first four of the detainees initially admitted guilt, in connection with which the courts continued under special proceedings without examining evidence.

Regardless, Kuly was sentenced to deprivation of freedom in an open prison, and Shpakov to 1.5 years in a correctional colony with an ordinary regime.

After the pronouncement of the sentences, Kuliy and Shpakov indicated that they had made a plea bargain and agreed to special proceedings, conceding to the persuasion of government-appointed lawyers (initially, all the accused had been fully isolated from the outside world and did not have access to private counsel) and of investigators in hopes of not getting a prison term.

Zimovets, whose case has been under consideration since the end of May in Moscow’s Tverskoi district court, refused a plea bargain, and Krepkin did not confess to striking a police officer from the very beginning.

The investigation of the cases of Krepkin and Kosykh continues.

In practice, the accusations against all defendants except Kosykh, about whom almost nothing is known, are based on injuries, unconfirmed by medical records, supposedly suffered by police officers who didn’t sustain any actual bodily harm, but merely experienced pain. It is also based on video recordings that are too unclear to allow one to make any conclusion as to whether the accused indeed used the violence imputed to them against police.

Related to the “26 March case” is that of the mathematics lecturer Dmitry Bogatov. Right after 26 March what were in fact anonymous calls began appearing on social media sites and internet forums calling for a protest on 2 April. A proportion of them had a relatively radical character (as a result, on 2 April several hundred peaceful protestors took to the streets and squares of Moscow, of whom more than 100 were detained).

In that connection a case was initiated on 1 April on the charge of incitement to riot, and on 6 April D. Bogatov was arrested with regard to that case.

As it later turned out later, Bogatov had on his computer a TOR network exit node, thanks to which one of the many re-posts of calls to participate in the 2 April protest, located on a professional forum for system administrators, was identified by its IP as coming from Bogatov’s computer.

Other, similar messages from the same forum user came from different IPs in different countries, but investigators decided that the owner of the only Moscow address among them was the author.

As the court refused to take Dmitry Bogatov into custody on charges of incitement to riot, he was charged under Article 30, Part 1; Article 212, Part 1, of the Russian Federation Criminal Code (“Preparation for the organisation of riots”); and Article 205.2, Part2 (“Public appeals via the internet to carry out terrorist activity”), and then placed in custody.

The prosecution of Bogatov, who has no connection with political protests, is obviously intended to scare internet users and prevent new public calls for protests that have not been given official sanction. Dmitry Bogatov has been recognised as a political prisoner by Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow branch).

It has been reported that criminal proceedings have been opened against people who participated in the 26 March action in towns other than Moscow. However, in these cases no one has been arrested, and only one case has come to the attention of the court: Volgograd student Maksim Beldinov was given a suspended sentence of one and a half year for violence against an official.

On 5 June it emerged that 33-year-old bankruptcy liquidator Evgeny Vladenkov from Petrozavodsk had been charged under Article 318, Part 1, of the Criminal Code. He was placed under house arrest.

Nevertheless, as the Moscow protest on 26 March was the largest, and as the authorities attach special significance to controlling protest activity in the capital, more repressions in connection with the “March 26 Affair” can be expected here.

The nature of the charges against those already indicted in this case, and the creation of such a large body of investigators to investigate a peaceful mass action, during which (after, in fact) there was only one incident of real violence against a police officer, leads us – especially considering the experience of many of the members of the group involved in the Bolotnaya Square case – to conclude that the aim is, in this case as in that, large-scale criminalisation of innocent people in order to intimidate civil society.

This interpretation is supported by the unprecedentedly rapid nature of the investigation.

If those accused in the Bolotnaya Square case were investigated over a period of months or even years, then the cases of three of the detainees in the new “March 26 case” went to court in less than two months.

This haste seems to be related to the necessity of bringing to bear against society the threat of criminal investigation for participation in peaceful protest before the next mass demonstration scheduled for 12 June. But it’s entirely likely that this criminal case will be investigated further, and more innocent participants in peaceful protests will be criminalised.

P.S. Human rights activist Sergei Davidis states: “While this report was being prepared for publication, a new suspect emerged in the case in Petrozavodsk.

Thanks to Anna Bowles and Lincoln Pigman for the translation

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising, we rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

Agora reports on increase of censorship in Russia following conflict with Ukraine

posted 15 Jun 2017, 03:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jun 2017, 03:35 ]

9 June 2017


Russian authorities have used events in Ukraine as a pretext for the suppression of independent opinions and movements, according to a new report by the Agora International Human Rights Association on “Freedom of Speech as a Casualty. Censorship as a Consequence of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict.

“An active purge of the Internet and libraries has begun, while pressure on independent mass media and NGOs heightened significantly, the list of state secrets widened and the number of criminal cases involving high treason and espionage increased. The ongoing practice of direct acts of violence being committed with impunity toward political opponents and domestic activists, clearly encouraged by the authorities, has given rise to a wave of new political prisoners and refugees,” observes the study’s co-author, lawyer Damir Gainutdinov. According to the authors, all these measures are directly or indirectly linked with the complications of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Two months after the ‘annexation’ of the Crimea, a new article (280.1) was introduced into the Russian Criminal Code criminalizing calls to action “directed toward the violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.” The report states: “It was precisely this legal provision which became the main means to put pressure on those opposed to the ‘return of the Crimea.’

The report also focusses on the pressure placed on NGOs, the persecution of dissenters, through for example ‘movements’ such as ‘NOD’ (the National Liberation Movement), ‘Anti-Maidan’ and ‘SERB’, internet censorship and limiting freedom of expression in the media.

The report points out that the activity of these ‘movements’ has been reduced to the harassment of the opposition, the LGBT community and figures from the arts who criticize the authorities. Many of the attacks instigated by NOD and SERB, reported by Agora, occured at protests over events in Ukraine.

Translated by Nathalie Wilson

We are delighted you have been reading Rights in Russia. As you know, we are a non-for-profit organization that does not carry advertising. We rely on our readers and well-wishers to support our work. If you share our belief in the importance of our mission, in the need to publicize the human rights situation in Russia, please consider making a donation to enable us to continue our work. Help keep Rights in Russia alive. To donate, see HERE

On the prosecution of human rights activist Valentina Cherevatenko

posted 12 Jun 2017, 06:43 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Jun 2017, 06:45 ]

2 June 2017


The founder and chair of the Russian NGO ‘Women of the Don’, Valentina Cherevatenko, is expected today, 2 June 2017, to be formally charged with ‘malicious non-implementation’ of the law on ‘foreign agents’. Valentina Cherevatenko is the first Russian citizen to be charged with criminal responsibility under this law. If found guilty, up to two years’ imprisonment could await her.

‘The only reason why Cherevatenko is being brought to court and risks losing her freedom is her unceasing defence of human rights. The case against her illustrates just how far the Russian authorities are prepared to use repressive measures against the independent organizations of civil society. The criminal prosecution of Cherevatenko sends a clear signal to all Russian NGOs – their members may find themselves facing arbitrary charges and the threat of prison simply for accepting foreign financial aid to work on human rights’ said Denis Krivosheev, the deputy director of Amnesty International for Europe and Central Asia.

‘The mounting of a criminal case for non-implementation of the law on ‘foreign agents’ represents a very serious worsening of an already stressful situation as regards human rights activity in Russia,’ emphasized the well-known human rights organization, Human Rights Watch.

According to the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the prosecution of Valentina Cherevaenko is politically motivated. ‘It is part of a campaign which the state is waging against non-governmental organizations which dare to criticize the authorities, and it is aimed at stopping Cherevatenko’s legal, public, activity and, also, more generally, at frightening people who adopt positions on social issues counter to the official ones, and who engage in independent public action’ declared Memorial. ‘We demand the dropping of the criminal case against Valentina Cherevatenko, and the repeal of the discriminatory and pernicious legislation on “foreign agents”.’

Valentina Cherevatenko heads the coordinating council of the Union ‘Women of the Don’ and is chair of the board of the same-named Foundation for encouraging the development of civil society and human rights. Both organizations carry out educational programmes on human rights and the promotion of peace, and are also involved in humanitarian projects in the North Caucasus. The Union ‘Women of the Don’ was included in the register of foreign agents in 2014, the Foundation in 2015.

For more information about the prosecution of Valentina Cherevatenko, see HERE

Translated by Mary McAuley 

Head of human rights council condemns public caging of defendants

posted 12 Jun 2017, 02:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Jun 2017, 02:16 ]

1 June 2017 


Head of the Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov is convinced legislation that permits defendants to be held in ‘cages’ and ‘glass docks’ during judicial proceedings needs to be amended. He considers such measures should be used only as a matter of last resort, reports.

Fedotov is of the view that, for those accused of minor crimes, all that should be required is for them to be placed behind some sort of barrier or stand. 

‘No one should ever be kept in a cage, if it is not stipulated by law or deemed necessary within a democratic society and by the rule of law,’ the head of the Human Rights Council stressed.

Several years ago, the European Court of Human Rights recognized as unlawful the practice of holding defendants in cages during court proceedings. Recently, the Court ruled that compensation totalling more than €17,000 should be paid to three Russian citizens subjected to the practice. The applicants to the ECtHR said they considered the practice humiliating and an infringement of their civil rights.

Nathalie Wilson

The case of scientist Vladimir Lapygin, convicted of ‘espionage’

posted 5 Jun 2017, 03:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 03:05 ]

30 May 2017


Vladimir Lapygin, the 76-year-old scientist at the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) who was sentenced to seven years in a high-security prison in a so-called “espionage” case, has petitioned for a pardon, Grani reports, citing Open Russia.

Petitions of this kind are now reviewed by the Commission for Pardons of Tver region, where Lapygin is imprisoned. Lapygin simultaneously sent a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.

Before this, the details of Lapygin’s case were unknown. As explained by journalist and activist Zoya Svetova, the scientist wrote a text called “How I became a spy,” in which he disclosed the details of his case.

The investigation charged Vladimir Lapygin with giving China “a software system able to compute optimized aerodynamic characteristics of hypersonic aircraft containing state secrets.”

The scientist himself testifies that he gave China only an introductory copy of the software. He acted in the interests of the Russian enterprise TsNIIMash and intended to negotiate a contract with the Chinese partners that would be beneficial to TsNIIMash.

In addition, emphasizes Vladimir Lapygin, the software he gave China was created at TsNIIMash in 2010 and was granted the option of open publishing in December of the same year.

However, after the criminal case against Lapygin had been opened, the management of TsNIIMash classified the programme in question at the demand of the FSB.

Experts appointed by the FSB also attested to the presence of top-secret information in the materials that Lapygin handed over. One of the primary experts was Aleksei Galaktionov, former postgraduate student under Lapygin and his subordinate, with whom the scientist had constant conflicts. Lapygin's defence counsel succeeded in persuading the court to recognize the evaluation by this expert as inadmissible evidence.

However, the court declined the defence’s proposed experts for conducting a reassessment. The experts selected by the court and prosecutor’s office confirmed the results of the first examination.

“The accusation of treason is fabricated start to finish,” states the convicted scientist himself, Vladimir Lapygin.

Vladimir Lapygin was arrested by FSB officers in May 2015 and placed under house arrest. However, the media only reported on the prosecution of the scientist two months later.

Vladimir Lapygin’s sentence was delivered by Moscow City Court on 6 September 2016; information on the decision appeared in the media only on 23 September. The scientist was taken into custody in the courtroom. On 14 December, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

On 15 February, it was reported that 23 Russian scientists, many of whom are colleagues of Vladimir Lapygin at TsNIIMash, sent a letter to the president with the request to pardon the scientist. Among those who signed the document were Russian Academy of Sciences members Vladimir Levin, Sergei Surzhikov, and Vasily Fomin, as well as associate member Ivan Egorov.

As stated in the appeal, Lapygin is “an honest and responsible person with good morals, a respected leader, and an authoritative specialist.” “A person with that kind of reputation cannot betray their country,” the signatories insisted.

The scientists’ letter to the president emphasizes: “For a 76-year-old person in the aftermath of two very serious car accidents, any amount of time in a high-security prison is equivalent to the death penalty.”

Memorial Human Rights Centre on Ukrainian authorities’ ban on access to Russian mass media and social media networks

posted 4 Jun 2017, 23:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 01:16 ]

21 May 2017


Statement by the Memorial Human Rights Centre 

The order of the Ukrainian President No. 133/2017 not only extended the ban on the transmission of Russian government television channels, but broadened the restrictions to include the activity of many Russian mass media and internet sources, and also prohibited access to Russian social media networks.

This decision is not a step toward Europe, but rather one in the opposite direction.

It was namely with restrictions on freedom of information that the Bolsheviks began their rule – and we know what that led to.

The main problems in present-day Russia are also connected with the nationalization of principal sources of information and with the appearance of ever newer means of actual censorship. Are these examples worthy of imitation?

The arbitrary restriction of the rights of one’s own citizens “to receive and disseminate information and ideas without any interference whatsoever on the part of public authorities and independently of state borders” is an indicator of the weakness of authority as well as that of the democratic institutions in a society.

Among the banned media outlets are not only those engaged in propagandistic disinformation, but also media that are completely professional and conscientious in their work, reflecting various viewpoints.

Of course, the right to information is not absolute and may be restricted — but only in the interests of national security, the preservation of territorial integrity, the maintenance of public order, for the prevention of unrest and crime, and for the protection of health and morality.

Many of the prohibited sources do not represent such a threat in the slightest degree, and it is no accident that the commentaries of public officials on this issue have been so self-contradictory, unpersuasive, and sometimes simply absurd.

And there is no explanation at all for the ban on social media sites, which have become such important means of communication, including between residents of territories not under control of the lawful government of Ukraine, and the rest of the country.

The population of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic now finds itself in even greater isolation from the rest of Ukraine. And for Ukrainian citizens working in Russia those networks were an important part of their link to the homeland.

Bans on information are the most ineffective means of moving towards freedom.

And if the Ukrainian authorities are really striving to build a free society, then they will reconsider their decision and limit those bans to that which is genuinely necessary and well-substantiated.

Translated by Mark Nuckols

Two new books on Stalinist repression by detained historian Yury Dmitriev presented in Karelia

posted 4 Jun 2017, 22:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Jun 2017, 22:57 ]

25 May 2017


A CD with books by arrested historian Yury Dmitriev has been presented at an event in Petrozavodsk. The CD contains two previously unpublished texts The Fatherland Remembers Them and Red Forest.
As the Social Information Agency [ASI] reports, the presentation of Yury Dmitriev’s books had been organized by the International Memorial Society and Anatoly Razumov, head of the Return of the Names Centre at the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.

The event took place on 24 May 2017 at the local art centre’s Agriculture Club. Participants included Sergei Krivenko, member of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, Irina Galkova, staff member of Memorial, Jan Rachinsky board member of International Memorial Society and Anatoly Razumov, head of the Return of the Names Centre. Ekaterina Klodt, Dmitriev’s daughter, as well as other people who support Yury Dmitriev and consider the allegations against him to be falsified also attended the event.

The books The Fatherland Remembers Them and Red Forest are memorial books about the victims of repression. The first book is deals with those people from Karelia who fell victim to Stalinist repressions. The second contains a list of those shot at the place of mass execution in the Red Forest (Krasny Bor) near Petrozavodsk.

As Anatoly Razumov pointed out, these two books by Yury Dmitriev are being made public on the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Terror and print versions will appear on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Red Terror.

On 28 May an event to mark the publication of the two books by Yury Dmitriev in CD-format will take place in St. Petersburg, with a later event also to be held in Moscow.

Colleagues, journalists and members of the public have stood up in defence of Yury Dmitriev, who is both a local historian and the head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial organization. Petitions in his support have been prepared addressed to the human rights ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia and the city court of Petrozavodsk, as well as to concerned citizens.

Yury Dmitriev was arrested on 15 December 2016. The 61-year old is accused of preparation of pornographic photos and illegal possession of the main parts of a fire arm. According to his defence, the photos found on his private computer are not in any way pornographic.

There is a special group for the support of historian Yuri Dmitriev on Facebook.

See also an online anthology of materials about the prosecution of Yury Dmitriev and the campaign in his defence published by

Translated by Friederike Behr

Memorial believes mathematician Dmitry Bogatov is political prisoner

posted 2 Jun 2017, 11:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Jun 2017, 11:58 ]

23 May 2017


Dmitry Bogatov, a Muscovite, has been charged, quite without evidence, of incitement to terrorism against the government. There are grounds to suggest that one of the aims of his prosecution has been to deter potential protesters.

Immediately after the unexpected nationwide mass protests on 26th March 2017 there were criminal investigations instigated in connection with this protest, as well as in connection with calls for mass protests on 2nd April. A large investigative group was formed to work on these cases.

There are grounds to believe that one of the aims of these demonstrative actions by the authorities was the deterrence of potential protesters. One of the victims of this campaign has been Dmitry Bogatov, who did not take part in the events.

The accusation against Dmitry Bogatov is that on 29th March 2017, under the pseudonym of “Airat Bashirov,” he posted on the internet “materials calling for organised mass disruption in the centre of Moscow” on 2nd April and messaging “in which he referred to an unlimited circle of people with the aim of inciting them to carry out actions threatening to the population and creating danger to human life, and similarly leading to other serious consequences.”

On 6th April Bogatov was detained in his apartment in Moscow.

On 7th April, Evgeny Naidenov, judge of Moscow’s Presnensky district court, refused a request by investigators to remand Dmitry Bogatov in custody under Article 212, Section 3, of the Russian Criminal Code (“Incitement of mass disruption”) on the grounds that he had been charged with a minor offence.

However, Bogatov was not released, but taken to the Investigative Committee in handcuffs. On the night of 7 – 8 April, the charges against him were changed to those of “preparation for organisation of riots” (Article 30, Section 1; Article 212, Section 1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and “public incitement to carry out terrorist activity through the internet” (Article 205.2, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 10th April the same judge from the Presnensky district court remanded Bogatov in custody for two months. At the remand hearing, Bogatov’s lawyer unsuccessfully requested that CCTV footage in which it is clear that Bogatov left a supermarket with his wife 4 minutes before the material he is accused of publishing on the internet was posted. And Bogatov’s walk home, according to the lawyer, takes about 17 minutes.

The only piece of evidence in the investigation is the web address (IP) that “Airat Bashirov” used. This address belongs to Dmitri Bogatov. However, it is known that on 19th July 2015 on his IP-address, Bogatov registered an exit node of Tor (The Onion Router), that is he allowed his own address to be used by all those who aim for anonymity on the internet.

Tor allows logging onto sites not directly, but through several node points. The most vulnerable part to this system is the exit node which is last in line and whose IP is known to the terminal site. That is to say, Bogatov had such a node at his home, as do many people throughout the whole world. It is absolutely legal.

Posts in the name of Airat Bashirov have continued to appear on the forum even after the arrest of Dmitry Bogatova.

The person writing under this name has confessed to journalists about the authorship of the posts of which Bogatov has been accused. He has stated that he wanted to tease political opponents and he never dreamed of any kind of terrorism.

We consider that Dmitry Bogatov has been detained for political reasons, and did not commit any crime. Furthermore, in our opinion, it is clear that the investigation deliberately and illegally brought more serious charges against Bogatov in order to secure his detention in a pre-trial detention facility.

Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) demands the immediate release of Dmitry Bogatov and the end of the investigation.

Recognition of a person as a political prisoner, or as someone prosecuted for political motives, does not imply that Memorial agrees with their views or statements, nor supports their statements or actions.

Translated by Frances Robson

Memorial hosts presentation of book on political prisoner Aleksei Pichugin

posted 29 May 2017, 08:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2017, 09:07 ]

18 May 2017

By Vera Vasilieva


Pictured: Vera Vasilieva, Aleksei Kondaurov and Valery Shiryaev

On 16 May, a new edition of Aleksei Pichugin: Roads and Crossroads. A Biographical Sketch (originally published in 2012) was presented at the Moscow headquarters of the International Memorial Society. The book’s author, journalist Vera Vasilieva, is a contributor to the website, which reports on human rights issues. The new edition of her book has been published with the support of Novaya gazeta and its chief editor, Dmitry Muratov.

As well as Vasilieva herself, participants in the event included Novaya gazeta's deputy director general Valery Shiryaev; former head of the information and analysis department of Yukos oil company Aleksei Kondaurov; and former members of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission Zoya Svetova and Liudmila Al’pern, who visited Aleksei Pichugin during his nine-month stay in Moscow’s Lefortovo detention centre in 2016.

Vasilieva said she had not expected to update her book. She had hoped that the next book would be written by the political prisoner himself, once he was released from prison. But five years had passed since the first edition was published and much had happened in Pichugin’s life – much, that is, except his release. This has been despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which in 2012 called for a review of the unjust criminal case. At that point, Vasilieva explained, she realised that she needed to update her book.

Valery Shiryaev, who carried out a journalistic investigation, The Court of Vengeance, into the first criminal case against Pichugin, asserted that, contrary to the prevailing opinion that society is oblivious to his tragic story, “This case…is not going to go away. It really won’t, because everything will have to be answered for. Nothing in our history can be forgotten… And Aleksei’s case will always be a needle provoking maximum discomfort for our present regime. The system is changing. And, when it changes, this case will immediately come to the forefront.”

Aleksei Kondaurov—regardless of the third investigation opened against former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in which Kondaurov and Pichugin have both been questioned in their capacity as Khodorkovsky’s former colleagues—expressed hope that Pichugin’s situation will soon change for the better. He suggested that in 2018 President Vladimir Putin will pardon Pichugin, along the lines of American presidents who commonly issue pardons when leaving office. “I don’t rule out the possibility that this will happen with Pichugin,” Kondaurov said. He recalled that Khodorkovsky was pardoned and released by Putin in this way. “I think that Putin planned to put Khodorkovsky behind bars for a ten-year stretch, and Khodorkovsky did indeed serve ten years. I think Putin intends for Pichugin to serve fifteen. So I am hopeful that Aleksei will be freed in this manner. God grant that I am not mistaken!” Kondaurov said.

The journalist Zoya Svetova, who has also written about Pichugin, shared with the audience her conclusions about the first hearing of his case, which was dismissed by presiding judge Natalia Oikhver. "When I communicated with the jury from the first hearing, I realised that even these ordinary people, who had been selected at random, understood that Pichugin was innocent," Svetova said.

Svetova also spoke about her correspondence with Pichugin. “I was amazed how he writes. I was struck that he, imprisoned for life, always asked with concern how I am, how I am doing, how my family is. And this wasn’t just me. He always tells those to whom he writes to take care of themselves, and that they are in his prayers. His voice is heard.”

"All our visits were exactly the same—handcuffs, five guards between us... Pichugin was very friendly, he smiled, he was always glad to see us. That is because someone who is kept in isolation is isolated not only physically but also in human terms. For such a person, every visit, every new person is a gift of fortune," Liudmila A’lpern explained.

A recording of the book presentation can be found on the website The Case of Pichugin.

Aleksei Pichugin has already served fourteen years of his life sentence in the “Black Dolphin” colony in the town of Sol’-Iletsk in Orenburg region. He maintains his innocence. The Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognised Pichugin as a political prisoner. 

Translated by Elizabeth Teague

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