8 Августа 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 621

5 August 2013



Attempt on editor’s life in Moscow Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

An attempt has been made on the life of Galina Kramich, chief editor of the local newspaper Lyubimyi Gorod in the Shatura district, Moscow Region.

As she got off a bus and made for her house in Aleksino-Tugoles village at about 6 p.m. on 31 July, an unknown man caught up with Kramich and, without saying a word, hit her on the head with a heavy object, then kicked her several times and ran away. Passers-by found the editor unconscious and called an ambulance, which rushed her in a critical condition to the resuscitation department of the Central District Hospital in Shatura.

Police have started proceedings under Criminal Code Article 116 (“Beating”), but local observers link the assault with the victim’s professional work. For example, Shatura Mayor Valery Larionov has pointed to the fact that the attacker did not take any of Kramich’s personal effects, although she had an expensive cell phone, a photo camera and money in her handbag.

“Galina Kramich is known for her criticism of the Shatura Municipality Administration and its head Andrei Keller, leader of the local branch of the United Russia Party,” local Council Chairman Alexei Likhachov said. “For many years now, she has reported to the district community, in a consistently truthful and principled manner, about different malpractices committed by Mr Keller and members of his administration.”

It is worthy of noting that on 27 July Lyubimyi Gorod carried Kramich’s article “Here We Go Again!” hinting that Keller might have been behind the torching of the car of a Shatura opposition activist openly challenging Keller in the run-up to the 8 September elections of the Moscow Region governor and the Shatura Municipality leader.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Shatura.



Construction company director in Karelia threatens to break reporters’ cameras

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Yet another old building in downtown Petrozavodsk, Karelia, is being unlawfully demolished. It has survived many cataclysms, including the Finnish occupation of Petrozavodsk which heavily ruined the city. In 2000, the building was assigned the status of a historical and architectural monument subject to protection by the state. But since then, Karelia’s Culture Ministry and the Petrozavodsk administration, one of the building’s co-owners, as well as its new owner, Tekhpromstroi Co., have done little, if anything at all, to preserve the building. Moreover, some unknown evil-doers have more than once set it on fire, and it’s only by some miracle that the house still stands.

One of its major owners recently hired an excavator to demolish the inner part of the building. Civil activists instantly sent word around that the house was being pulled down, which caused a crowd of defenders and reporters to gather around the building to protect it. Catching sight of newsmen with cameras, Tekhpromstroi General Director A. Volkov started threatening to break their equipment unless they stopped taking pictures of the working excavator and everything else that was going on at that moment. In reply, the journalists reminded him of the need to respect the Criminal Code, which prohibits interference with their work. That, however, did not stop Volkov from further attempts to drive the press away; fortunately, the parties did not come to blows.

The Journalists’ Union of Karelia reported the incident to the republican prosecutor’s office and demanded that Volkov’s actions be checked up in terms of their legality and that adequate measures of response be taken in respect of him. The JUK statement pointed out that the director’s actions amounted to what Criminal Code Article 144 bans as “interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities”, thus protecting the reporters who perform their professional duty from anyone’s attempts to put physical or psychological pressure on them.

The prosecutors have started checking the facts highlighted in the Journalists’ Union’s statement.


Those at the helm in Omsk presumed to be “always right”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A court in Omsk has turned down a blogger’s legal claim against law enforcement, thereby actually confirming the authorities’ right to frame up administrative cases against anyone they happen to dislike.

Viktor Korb, a prominent blogger, journalist and civil activist, failed to get the regional “force” agencies – the FSB, police and prosecutor’s office – to pay him 6 million roubles in moral, material and reputational damages and in compensation for the time he had wasted attending hearings of the cases they had trumped up against him.

“They stole nearly a year of my life,” Korb said, adding that the persecution campaign against him was deliberate and thoroughly planned. On 31 July 2012, after activists gathered in Omsk’s Teatralnaya Square as part of the Strategy 31 civil campaign to discuss matters of common interest, police started administrative proceedings against Korb on charges of “a meeting grown into a rally” – and did so without due reason, as subsequently decided by three courts after five months of judicial proceedings.

Shortly after, a new case was submitted to court, with Korb accused of using (in his LiveJournal blog and on the Politomsk.ru site he had created) the word polizei in respect of the police – although he had more than once explained that the term [borrowed from German during World War II to express contempt for Russian collaborators with Nazis – Translator.] referred “not to all the police officers but only to those who breach the law while acting on orders from the PRaT” [“Party of Rogues and Thieves” – reference to the ruling United Russia Party – Translator.].

In February 2013, Korb learned – quite by chance – that his essay “Contract vs. Norm”, just as some publications by political writers Yuri Afanasyev and Vladislav Inozemtsev, was on the list of “extremist” materials only because all those stories had been reprinted by the opposition newspaper Radikalnaya Politika without the authors’ consent. And in early March, the FSB initiated the start of legal proceedings on charges of “extremist content circulation”, in which Korb was among the accused. He successfully challenged both rulings in court and had them pronounced unlawful, but that took much time again (see Digest 613). Reports about the rulings’ cancellation were carried by barely a dozen, whereas those about his “extremist activities” by more than a hundred media, causing an alert reaction in the scientific circles, where Korb belongs as a prominent sociologist and political scientist and the author of popular web projects, such as “Mr Mayor” (virtual mayoral elections), as well as a new format of political actions requiring no notification of the authorities – SSG (Assembly of Free Citizens), which is now in use in many Russian regions.

His 6-million-rouble claim was considered by the Central district court in Omsk. According to the plaintiff, the three cases showed the law enforcers targeted him in a well-coordinated manner, with the FSB playing the initiator’s part. While acknowledging the unlawfulness of the proceedings started against the blogger, Judge Illirionov turned down Korb’s claim in full. Actually, that meant that the court recognised the ruling elite’s right to arbitrarily waste people’s time and energy only because someone happens to fall under suspicion. If it finds a person disloyal or otherwise “inconvenient”, it is free to frame up administrative or even criminal cases against him or her – just as it has done in respect of other bloggers, openly and unceremoniously.

He hadn’t expected the court to pass a different decision, Korb told the GDF. He had lodged his claim for the sole purpose of showing to the public what our judiciary and law enforcement look like today; any ordinary Russian taxpayer supporting these agencies financially is not guaranteed against getting trampled on by them, he said.

Court in Omsk turns down Cossack ataman’s 10-million-rouble legal claim

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional court in Omsk has rejected a legal claim lodged by Nikolai Afanasyev, ataman of the Omsk Cossack Community, against the Biznes-Kurs (BK) weekly newspaper which carried an article titled “Arbitrary Arbitration”, describing several episodes from the life of the regional Cossack chieftain. The plaintiff demanded a record 10 million roubles in moral damages – much more than ex-Governor Leonid Polezhayev, who had a reputation for suing local and federal media for libel, used to claim – and even those amounts were seen by observers as inordinate.

The publication, though, did undermine Afanasyev’s public image considerably. In his prior interviews for regional media he had stressed that the community he leads – unlike others, of which there are about a dozen in the region – unites more than 1,500 ethnic Cossacks (not counting their family members), who are “unquestionably authentic” since “their names are on the state register”. The ataman called them “elite servants”, whose mission is “to serve the state and fatherland”.

But Biznes-Kurs told a much less histrionic story about Afanasyev’s own activities, which included an attempt at seizing a Kalachinsky district farm that once belonged to Pyotr Becker and was inherited after his death by his son Alexei. According to BK, Afanasyev suddenly filed a legal claim against Becker Jr., demanding repayment of money that his father had allegedly borrowed from the Cossack leader. As it turned out in court, however, the plaintiff had never even known the late farmer personally and almost all the documents he presented – a contract of debt, a due-bill, etc. – had been forged.

While the proceedings were still in progress, a group of sturdy guys arrived at the farm’s granary to carry away 500 tonnes of grain – “for repayment”, as they explained. Alexei decided to sue, and a court ruled that the ataman had unjustly enriched himself by stealing another person’s property worth 2 million roubles.

The Cossack chieftain refused outright to serve the court ruling. As a bailiff once again came to his house to levy distress on his property, eyewitnesses saw a conflict flare up between the two government servants: the “elite servant” got into a Mercedes already distressed by the “rank-and-file servant” and drove it over the bailiff’s foot, leaving the man with a broken toe, BK reported. That gave rise to criminal proceedings, which, though, was nothing new for the ataman: in the late 1990s, during Afanasyev’s tenure as director of a motor transport company, his company went bankrupt, having failed to duly pay for 3,000 cars to the Moskvich Motor Car Works; those funds may have been misappropriated via other firms under Afanasyev’s control, according to the business newspaper Kommercheskiye Vesti. “The Official Receiver said lots of forged documents were presented that time too, but the case didn’t go all the way to court,” the newspaper said.

Enraged by the article “Arbitrary Arbitration”, the ataman went beyond filing an administrative claim: he also turned to the police, asking to start criminal proceedings against the story’s author Vitaly Gannashchuk and BK Chief Editor Natalya Vorokhob – on charges of libel. The regional court, however, found nothing libellous about that publication.

Earlier, the Pervomaisky district court had rejected a similar claim – also worth 10 million roubles – lodged by Afanasyev against farmer Alexei Becker’s defence lawyer, who called the ataman in the courtroom “a veteran raider relying on the assistance of dirty firms”. The court found that characteristic of the Omsk Region’s chief Cossack acceptable.

Several government officials in Stavropol Region at law with independent newspaper

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Boris Kabelchuk, a former Stavropol Region Minister of Natural Resources, has filed an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim against the independent newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta (OG) and its author Anton Chablin, demanding 50,000 roubles in moral damages from each of the two defendants.

The claim was lodged in the wake of May’s OG publication commenting on a reshuffle within the regional government. The author linked Kabelchuk’s resignation with OG’s reporting about the transfer of 44 hectares of woodland in the Russian Forest National Park to a private company that started building a café there. The ex-minister is now insisting he resigned voluntarily and that he was opposed to the unlawful construction project during his time in office.

Different courts across the region are busy reviewing about a dozen honour-and-dignity protection claims brought against her independent newspaper by government officials, OG Chief Editor Lyudmila Leontyeva told the GDF. The total worth of claimed compensation is close to one million roubles, she said.

Newspaper publication in Perm scanned for potential extremist content

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Investigators at the Perm Region FSB Department on 29 July started criminal proceedings against the newspaper Zvezda in the wake of its 19 July publication “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style”. Responding to a recent tragedy in the city of Pugachev, where a local resident, Ruslan Marzhanov, 20, was stabbed by a group of North Caucasians, Roman Yushkov, an assistant professor at the State Scientific Research University in Perm, urged the Russians to exercise their “sacred right of revenge” in defending their vital interests.

“If the protesters who took to the streets in Pugachev didn’t puff out their cheeks threatening to set that Halal Café [where Marzhanov was killed] on fire but did actually burn it together with its owners, the situation might change,” wrote Yushkov, who holds a Candidate of Sciences’ degree in geography. This passage struck the prosecutors and FSB as one indicative of an encroachment on the established constitutional system and state security, namely as a public call via the media for acts of extremism – an offence punishable under Criminal Code Article 280.2 by up to 5 years in jail.

Zvezda Chief Editor Sergei Trushnikov on 2 August wrote in his newspaper that Yushkov’s publication had been placed under the heading “Direct Speech”, meaning that the author’s views might be at odds with those of the editorial board. Besides, Yushkov did not make “any direct calls – he wrote everything in the subjunctive mood,” the editor noted. He described law enforcement’s actions as “a chain of hypocritical steps pretending to protect some vital areas of public life”. According to GDF information, the investigators intend to order some forensic studies, including a linguistic study of the text. Specialists are expected to provide expert opinions that will help to make a legally correct assessment of the controversial publication.

Similar problems occurred as the case of Yuri Tokranov, executive secretary of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Permi (MKP), was under investigation. The 22 September 1999 issue of MKP featured his article “Perm Residents Must Be on the Alert for Any Emergency!” With reference to an unidentified Chechen man, Tokranov warned about bombings of the Kama hydro-power station and some apartment houses in Perm being plotted. He later explained to investigators that he had invented the story because he wished to alert the readers to potential terrorist acts by North Caucasians. The Leninsky district court qualified the publication as an a priori false report about a terrorist act, punishable under Criminal Code Article 207, and sentenced him on 26 November 1999 to one year of correctional labour with 20% of his earnings payable into the state budget.

Power company in Maritime Region claims 1.5 million roubles from newspaper

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Dalnegorsk Power Grid Co., angered by a Dalnegorskiye Novosti (DN) report about a series of rallies staged by local residents in protest against the company’s abuse of its monopolistic position on the district energy market, has filed a legal claim against the journalists for alleged damage to its business reputation, which it estimated at 1.5 million roubles.

The plaintiff called the publication “libellous” and “reputation-ruining”; it claimed particularly offended by being referred to as “the monopoly-holder (on the energy market) in Dalnegorsk, which unilaterally concludes agreements with third-party organisations, charges rates as it thinks fit, and bills the customers at its own discretion” – a characteristic “that can be seen, and is actually seen, as an attempt to smear the good name of Dalnegorsk Power Grid Co.”.

In addition to the above-named compensation, the company asked the arbitration court to require DN to publish a disclaimer, but the court turned down its claim in full.

New district leader – new conflict with the press in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The chain of conflicts between newly-elected district leaders and the press in the Sverdlovsk Region has found a continuation in Nizhnyaya Salda, where staffers of the municipal newspaper Gorodskoy Vestnik (GV) have had to resign because of falling out with the district head, Yelena Matveyeva. The journalists themselves are denying the fact of any conflict with the municipal administration; rather, their position boils down to the formula, “It just so happened.”

The last issue prepared by the GV old-timers was released on 4 July, with the “Staffers Resign” heading featured in bold letters on the front page and with the editor and correspondents explaining the reasons for their resignation as follows: “As in any divorce, there is no one to blame. The times have changed, and we, too, have simply grown out of our shirts.” In other words, the journalists’ creative endeavours have ceased satisfying members of the local administration, who would like the newspaper to more frequently praise them for their “glorious deeds”.

“Gorodskoy Vestnik has been issued in Nizhnyaya Salda for 13 years now, having outlived four district leaders,” ex-Editor Ksenya Solovyova told the Novy Region news agency. “We enthusiastically saluted the new city mayor, Yelena Matveyeva, as an energetic and ambitious woman, and we looked forward to working with her. But unfortunately, we ran into mutual misunderstanding. She started blaming the newspaper for ‘poor’ coverage of our local developments – although we always reported honestly and provided an all-round picture of the city life. The district leader frowned at us for our failure to mention administration members’ names often enough, that I, as GV editor, would not attend administration conferences, and so on.”

Initially, she alone planned to tender her resignation, Solovyova said. “I just felt tired of hearing those countless reprimands – but I didn’t urge any of the guys to resign together with me. They decided to quit of their own free will – and I can understand them, because we’ve worked together for 13 years, sparing neither time nor effort for our newspaper to thrive. It just so happened we had to leave.”

Differences with Matveyeva caused the editor and three correspondents to retire, leaving behind only the accounting officer and the driver. But GV as the mouthpiece of the district administration hasn’t ceased existing: the authorities have replaced the four retirees with one – very loyal – worker to release all the issues single-handed.

Life shows that district leaders in the Sverdlovsk Region who fail to maintain friendly relations with the press are not, as a rule, re-elected for another term…



District police department keeps a watchful eye on independent newspaper in Omsk Region

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A justice of the peace in the city of Tara, Omsk Region, has sentenced local residents Rinat Ibragimov and Maxim Benke to a fine of 1,500 roubles each for organising an unauthorised action that involved about 30 people. The action participants – mostly young motorists – “created hurdles to the street traffic” by planting potatoes right on the carriageway, the court decision said. But the activists intend to challenge that decision: in their view, they did good by planting potatoes into the ruts and potholes in the asphalt pavement, in which cars often get stuck, breaking their suspension or getting otherwise damaged. By planting and earthing up potatoes in those furrows all along Tara roads, and by marking them with red paint, motorists are seeking to draw local administrators’ attention to the deplorable state of district roads.

That was doubtlessly a protest action, but it was a peaceful one, Sergei Malgavko, editor of the newspaper Tarsky Kuryer, who watched the motorists’ “road show”, told the GDF, adding that the action may turn out to be more effective than slogans or appeals for help because “it seems nature itself, which determines the gestation period of each crop, is involved”.

“So let’s wait and see where we’ll reap first – whether the potholes will yield potatoes or if our bureaucrats, who have pledged so many times to bring the city roads in good order, will walk the talk,” the editor said.

The action did come home to the authorities, although not directly to those to whom it was addressed. The inter-district police department stepped in to check things up. To be sure, police were not after the officials who are to blame for the hole-ridden roads but after those who are dissatisfied – seriously, even if not openly – with their dilapidated condition. They questioned Sergey Malgavko, too, which he finds understandable: Tarsky Kuryer is the sole genuinely independent newspaper in the entire district, if not in the entire region; law enforcement has always kept a watchful eye on the content of Kuryer’s reporting.

This kind of increased police attention, although not open, is nonetheless pretty obtrusive, Malgavko said, referring to the dressings given him each time a highly topical publication appears (he even suspects police may be gathering compromising evidence against him). For example, he said, they had many questions to ask after Kuryer published a story about sculls with bullet holes that are found by construction workers on Tara outskirts almost every year – in Stalin’s times, people were brought there from all of the Omsk Region’s north for execution by firing squads. “A country seeking to economise on its history cannot even bury decently the victims of its own one-time policies,” Malgavko commented in his newspaper.

He was questioned also after Kuryer’s publication “Sterlet for the Chosen”, describing a camp for high-ranking poachers on a steep bank of the Irtysh, with a photo of the Russian flag proudly streaming over it. It might as well stream over the ruts and potholes on Tara roads: actions similar to the local one (but without potato planting) have been held in many cities across Russia – Moscow, Oryol, Lipetsk, Volgograd, Tomsk, Izhevsk, Tver and others – and with potato planting in Yaroslavl. If the authorities really believe such actions hamper the traffic, they might at least put up some warning road signs, Malgavko said. That would be a logical continuation of The New Roads of United Russia Programme, which has left a few asphalt pavers with the ruling party’s emblem on Omsk Region highways – the more so the mayor of Tara and the Tara district leader are both members of that party.

As we further discussed this theme with Sergei Malgavko, we recollected that the Omsk Region now has its own brand, which has cost it about 12 million roubles, according to media reports. This brand, an outline of the region’s map resembling a bear’s footprint [The bear is the official emblem of the United Russia Party – Translator.], approved by the previous governor, has been rejected by his successor and remains unused; maybe flags featuring that symbol would look organic enough as markers of roadway defects. Anyway, Tara residents are likely to find a good use for this regional brand unless the local authorities get busy repairing the roads at long last.



Public TV project under implementation in Perm

A Public Television School project is under implementation in the Perm Region, with programme support information provided by the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights Development and the Glasnost Defence Foundation.

Public TV in Perm builds on the results of last year’s efforts that resulted in the release of 14 programmes co-created by professionals and amateurs. This year, mixed amateur-professional TV teams have again been formed in the Industrialny, Leninsky and Motovilikhinsky districts of Perm to jointly make new public television programmes and shows, with focus on measures to improve the quality of life in the regional centre.

The first team was formed in the Industrialny district. Senior high-school pupils, teachers, community activists and businesspeople spent five days learning the basic shooting and editing techniques and training to speak before the camera. Master classes for “men and women in the street” were held by Regional Public TV specialists, among them pedagogue Vladimir Faktorovich, film director Nikolai Kirillov, business trainer Tatyana Krasilnikova (project director), producer Yelena Veselkova, and TV anchors Yulia Balabanova and Marina Zhemchuzhnikova.


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
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни