Legal Case of the Week: Aleksei Knedlyakovsky & Viktor Chirikov

posted 3 Jan 2017, 03:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jan 2017, 04:16 ]
On 23 December 2016 environmental activists Aleksei Knedlyakovsky and Victor Chirikov were jailed in Krasnodar for 15 days for alleged involvement in attaching a wooden crucifix to a memorial to Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the Soviet era secret police, the Cheka. According to reports, the crucifix appeared on the Dzerzhinsky monument on 20 December, the anniversary of the creation of the Cheka by Vladimir Lenin in 1917, a day officially held to honour members of the Soviet and Russian security services from the Cheka to the FSB. Movement of the 14% reported: 'On 20 December someone in Krasnodar marked the day by mounting a wooden cross on the memorial to Feliks Dzerzhinsky. Two Krasnodar environmentalists – activists from Environmental Watch Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky – have been accused of doing this. [...] Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky themselves state they had nothing to do with the mounting of the cross on the memorial. Despite that, on 22 December the two men were detained by the police. They were charged with ‘petty hooliganism’ under Article 20.1 of the Russian Administrative Code. The trial lasted a mere four minutes. The main evidence was a very faded photo in which Judge Stanislav Burenko said he recognized Knedlyakovsky and Chirikov. He handed down the maximum possible sentence.' Both men deny the charges.

Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, reports that while Chirikov was sentenced in a closed court, the trial of Knedlyakovsky was open, yet the judge had refused to wait until his the latter's lawyer could get to Krasnodar. She comments: 'It is possible that the FSB, the modern version of the same security service, just used the cross as a pretext for repressive measures against two "dissidents", however they also appear to have gone into overdrive in their reaction to the cross, intimidating even the local media into removing their reports about the cross. There is no real proof that Alexei Knedlyakovsky (Nekrasov) and Viktor Chirikov actually fixed the wooden crucifix to the bust of Dzerzhinksy, nor, in fact, is it entirely clear what the action was really saying. 

On 28 December 2016 Caucasian Knot reported that the two men had gone on hunger strike. The Movement of the 14% announced on 28 December that the two men had reported being held in torturous conditions: 'They are held in a small cell that does not meet regulation standards. There are 11 people in the 11 square metre cell, in other words each person has one square metre of space. There is no access at all to fresh air in the cells and most of those detained are continuously smoking. The detainees have limited access to drinking water, and this at a time when the two men have been on hunger strike since the first day of their detention, and already are into their sixth day without food. Today it became known that an ambulance was called to Viktor Chirikov because of a sudden deterioration in his health. Aleksei Knedlyakovsky’s health also continues to deteriorate, and the conditions of detention remain inhuman.' The organization urged the public to call on both the Public Oversight Commission and the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the conditions in which the two men were being held and their treatment.

Mikhail Savva, an academic and former victim of persecution from Kuban now living in Ukraine, is quoted by Halya Coynash as seeing in the convictions nothing more than the desire of the FSB to punish two Russians who spoiled their ‘Day of the Chekist’ and make them the object of ridicule: 'The FSB set up the police, prosecutors and judges who took part or will still take part in this case. The names of all officials who dirtied themselves through their involvement in this lawlessness are known. There is no chance that we will remember these names. Ladies and Gentlemen, you will be held to answer. The regime that is protecting you is not for ever. Are you sure that you need this?' 

'Hunger strike of blogger Knedlyakovsky in Krasnodar supported by activist Chirikov,' Caucasian Knot, 28 December 2016
Halya Coynash, 'Russian activists jailed for crucifix protest at monument to notorious secret police chief,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 27 December 2016
'Movement of the 14%' on the Cases of Viktor Chirikov and Aleksei Knedlyakovsky [Facebook],' Rights in Russia, 28 December 2016