Дайджест
4 Апреля 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 654

31 March 2014

STORY OF THE WEEK

From Russia to Russia: Expelled Ukrainian journalist “amnestied”

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The RF Federal Migration Service (FMS) has cancelled its decision on the deportation of journalist Mikhail Skrylnikov, a Ukrainian citizen contributing to the Russian web newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno.

An FMS message recently sent to Skrylnikov’s family read as follows:

“This is to inform you that the decision by the FMS department for the region of Bryansk banning M. Skrylnikov’s entry into the Russian Federation was cancelled on 31 January 2014, with the relevant information sent to Russia’s FSB for purposes of having his name removed from the list of persons who are not allowed into the Russian Federation. Deputy department head N. Shorygina.”

Thus the unclear decision in line with which Russian border guards took Skrylnikov off a train en route from Sevastopol to Moscow on 27 January and banned him from entering Russia until the end of 2016 has turned out to be wrong, unjustified, and hasty.

We reported on the incident in digest 646. In response to Sovershenno Sekretno’s repeated attempts to get migration authorities – either regional or federal – to explain the circumstances of Skrylnikov’s deportation, the FMS press service in Moscow told the journalists about a month ago that an official reply had already been prepared and only needed to be signed by the FMS chief spokesman. Yet it never actually was sent out.

According to Mikhail’s colleagues, the latest message from the FMS doesn’t really explain anything. It says the (27 January) decision was cancelled on 31 January, i.e., three days after the deportation. If so, why wasn’t it announced for all government agencies concerned to know? Skrylnikov’s Moscow-based relatives visited the FMS office in the Russian capital on 7 February to file an appeal to which the FMS officially replied by mail on 3 March, with no details available by that time yet. Nor did the FMS answer the main question – why Skrylnikov was deported and banned from entering Russia. In a private conversation with Mikhail, Russian border guards said he was thought to have “breached some regulations when staying in the region of Bryansk”. Yet he has not visited that region ever once in his life. Why the deportation decision was cancelled after all is not clear either, and no one has ever apologised to him for that.

The current situation is curious: Mikhail will be denied entry to Russia for three more months, which time the FMS says is needed for information about Skrylnikov’s “amnesty” to be fed into the FMS and border guards’ databases. Until then, he will continue living in Sevastopol, which, too, is part of Russia now…

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Regional court in Rostov starts reviewing case of convicted journalist Sergei Reznik

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

In November 2013 Sergei Reznik, a correspondent for the newspaper Yuzhny Federalny and the single most prominent Rostov-based blogger, stood trial in the Pervomaisky district court of Rostov, was convicted under three penal code articles of giving a bribe, insulting a government official, and filing an a priori false report with the police, and was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment. He was taken under arrest in the courtroom and placed in a remand centre in Novocherkassk (see digest 638).

The regional court in Rostov on 28 March commenced hearings in essence of an appeal filed by Reznik and his defence lawyers. The courtroom was crammed, but the ushers managed to fetch an extra bench to make room for a total of 30 or so persons, mostly friends and civic activists who came to express solidarity with the convicted journalist. Reznik himself was away, conferencing with the courtroom from the remand centre via Skype. The regional court recently acquired additional premises (a spacious building that earlier belonged to a design institute), yet it continues claiming it is still pinched for space to hold trials normally – even a trial with as broad public repercussions as Reznik’s. Or is it exactly because of this being a high-resonance case that they think that bringing in the “main character” to face the public in person would be undesirable?

Anyway, once his appeal has been reviewed, the journalist may get a chance to have the sentence passed by the Pervomaisky district court cancelled. The defence intends to present to a three-person panel of regional court judges a whole package of documents proving Reznik’s innocence, along with several witnesses waved aside by the first-instance court.

During the 28 March hearing, Reznik’s lawyers called the judges’ attention to what they said were “very questionable” proofs of their client’s guilt. They read out a transcript of Reznik’s telephone conversation with a service station technician showing that the latter from the outset urged the journalist to pay him 1,600-2,000 roubles for a certificate of his car’s being in good order and fit for driving. During the conversation, Reznik mentioned only his first name and did not say anything about his last name or place of employment. Yet the technician’s report to the police, which, too, was read out to the judges, said that “a man named Reznik, who is editor of the newspaper Yuzhny Federalny, attempted to give me a bribe”. As Reznik himself explained from the PC monitor, he had never worked in that capacity. His defence lawyers stated in court that, to all appearances, the report must have been filed post factum – or else it was a provocation prohibited under the law. Reznik was under surveillance from the very outset, and the charges against him were all trumped up, the lawyers said.

Evidence pertaining to another case, “a priori false reporting to the police”, looks still less convincing, with the charges built on the testimony of a certain Mr Solodovnikov – the person who, as proven in the course of investigation and during the district court hearings, had called Reznik on the phone to threaten the journalist and his family with violence. When Reznik reported the threats to law enforcement and asked to find the caller, the police did trace down the phone call to Solodovnikov. Yet they evidently put pressure on the man to testify in court that Reznik had personally asked for the threatening call – allegedly for purposes of “gaining more publicity”.

Andrei Solodovnikov has two previous convictions, one of them for false reporting. Generally, he is a notoriety in Rostov – a man attending rallies and other public events to acquire as many acquaintances as possible – and to then use them for personal ends, such as to borrow money from without repayment, to promise them his help for pay, etc. For example, he once introduced himself to a newspaper editor as press secretary to Nikolai Kozitsin, ataman of the Great Don Army, and promised him cooperation with the Cossack army “on a paid basis”. “I’ve never even seen that guy,” the ataman told the GDF, meaning Solodovnikov.

It’s the testimony of such a “wrong ‘un” that serves as the sole “proof” of Sergei Reznik’s being guilty of committing an offence qualified as a priori false reporting under RF Criminal Code Article 306.

Hearings of the convicted journalist’s appeal have been adjourned: the judges need time to review all the 14 volumes of Reznik’s case files.

 

RUSSIA

RF Prosecutor General’s Office sides with journalists, dismisses Sakhalin police chief

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

In late October 2013, the offices of the news agencies RIA SakhalinMedia in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and PrimaMedia in Vladivostok were searched by police, resulting in computers, other office equipment and employees’ personal effects seized. SakhalinMedia staffers were actually kept under arrest for several hours without the opportunity to make phone calls. After the search and seizure of office equipment in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, police officers flew to Vladivostok to search the PrimaMedia head office. Those measures, and the start of legal proceedings against the two news agencies, followed Senator Aleksandr Verkhovsky's claiming insulted by an article and an open letter to President Putin published by the news agencies in July 2013.

Among those standing up for the Far Eastern journalists were Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights; the Journalists’ Union of Russia; and the Glasnost Defence Foundation (see digest 646). An inspection ordered by the Prosecutor General’s Office in the wake of Fedotov’s appeal has exposed “serious violations of the rules of criminal procedure by officials of the investigative unit of the Interior Ministry Department for the Sakhalin Region and the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Municipal Police Department… both at the stage of preliminary investigation and in the course of investigative activities directly pertaining to the criminal case. In this connection, the head of the regional police department was sent a representation which was considered and satisfied, resulting in disciplinary measures taken in respect of those responsible,” a Prosecutor General’s Office report said.

The Sakhalin police command did not like either the fact of prosecutorial interference or the publication of the oversight agency’s official report. It responded by posting on the regional police department’s website a commentary that boiled down to the following: (a) the Sakhalin police acted a priori lawfully, and (2) anyone’s attempt to discuss or assess its actions may be interpreted as “putting pressure on the investigators”.

Yet the former regional police chief, Vladislav Belotserkovsky, was detained on 11 March on suspicion of acting in excess of his official authority. Criminal proceedings against him were started on 7 March for his suspected eavesdropping on the telephones of Investigative Committee and FSB officials, the Far Eastern Federal District Investigative Department’s press service told SakhalinMedia.

And on 12 March, the Russian President dismissed Belotserkovsky as head of the Sakhalin police department.

Journalist barred from attending open meeting in Karelia

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

A reporter for the newspaper Olonetskiye Sosedskiye Vesti (OSV) has been barred from attending a working group meeting held by Russian National Security Deputy Secretary Rashid Nurgaliyev.

The meeting did not intend to discuss any state secrets. Nurgaliyev was recently appointed head of a working group acting as part of a federal commission overseeing preparations for Karelia’s 100th anniversary. Group members have been touring the republic, district after district, to evaluate local needs and hear residents’ suggestions for improvement, based on which a federal programme of Karelia’s social and economic development is to be eventually drawn up. This is Nurgaliyev’s third trip to the republic where he studied and worked prior to his departure for Moscow.

After visiting local enterprises and social institutions, the deputy secretary usually meets with local activists to discuss the results. So he did this time in the town of Olonets, too, but the meeting organisers – the district administration – left some media reporters behind closed doors. OSV’s Sergei Romanov was not admitted because his name was not on the list of those invited. The officials did not bother to explain why – they just told him to go away.

When Romanov asked to be shown the list of the meeting participants, compiled by the Olonets district administration, he found not only his own newspaper’s representatives missing but also those of the municipal newspaper Oloniya, although the latter’s chief editor was sitting in the conference room. “That guy is entitled to be present,” a local official told Romanov with perfect calm.

There are two newspapers published in the Olonets district – one municipal, Oloniya, controlled by the district administration, and one private, Olonetskiye Sosedskiye Vesti. The latter outlet, bearing no financial responsibility before the local authorities, pursues an independent editorial policy, often causing local rulers to frown. Unable to change OSV’s policy, they seek as often as they can to bar “outsider” reporters from administration-organised public events. Last year, for example, the Olonets administration forbade an OSV journalist to attend a local council session that was to elect a new district head. The explanation was simple: no vacant seats in the conference room.

Since all those capable of asking “awkward” questions were left outside, the conference with Nurgaliyev, as assessed by its participants, turned into a 3-hour drag, with local officials reading their monotonous and boring reports one after another.

Veteran journalist in Khabarovsk pays with her pension and high-flood damages for freedom of expression

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The bailiffs in the Industrialny district of Khabarovsk have arrested the bank account where the pension of Irina Kharitonova, chief editor of the web newspaper Debri-DV, is transferred.

They withheld her two full pensions, for February and March, for repayment of damages to Police Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Vyacheslav Baranov, a former regional police chief turned Far Eastern representative of the oil company Alyans, who presented a writ of execution for 20,000 roubles in damages from Kharitonova. He is the second in a group of six officials who lodged legal claims (copied word for word from one another) in the wake of the April 2011 Khabarovsky Ekspress publication “Viktor Ishayev’s Power Tree”, criticising the-then Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative in the Far East, and his team. Local courts satisfied all those claims, worth a total of 210,000 roubles.

The bailiffs earlier withheld Kharitonova’s full pension for August 2013 for repayment of compensation to former Far Eastern Military District commander Viktor Novozhilov, who now lives on Rublyovskoye Highway [a luxurious residential area] in Moscow (see digest 625). However, after their unlawful action became known to the general public, the pension was returned. In October 2013, the bailiffs withheld the full amount of compensation to which Kharitonova was entitled as a victim of a high flood on the Amur. The measure was taken despite the regional prosecutor’s office’s explanations that in line with the executory process law, no one-time compensations payable from the federal or local budgets or from other sources in connection with damages suffered as a result of natural disasters or other acts of God shall be subject to withholding.

As we have reported, the authors of the article about Ishayev, seeing the Khabarovsk regional court rulings as unfair, sent eight complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, insisting that the Russian judiciary encroached upon their freedom of expression and infringed their right to a fair trial.

Circulating newspapers in Novosibirsk: A very risky occupation

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Circulating print media products in Novosibirsk has become an increasingly dangerous occupation: newspapers and campaigning leaflets may not make it to their addressees, and distributors risk not living long enough to see the results of the pending mayoral elections, due on 6 April. The two main competitors are Vladimir Znatkov of the United Russia party (URP) and Anatoly Lokot of the Communist party (CPRF). Naturally, it is not ruling party supporters but their eternal opponents who are exposed to above-described risks. The regional Communist party committee has reported on its website about dozens of incidents where unidentified persons have torn off leaflets from walls, damaged or carried away campaigning stands and banners, stolen newspapers from mailboxes, etc.

In the Kirovsky district, for example, campaigners have detected a group of teenagers following them around the neighbourhood to pick out just-delivered newspapers from residents’ mailboxes. When the activists attempted to scare the hooligans away, they called on the phone for reinforcement, and a group of sturdy guys – typical gangsters from the 1990s – arrived to guard the apartment house entrances while the teenagers rushed in to carry out crumpled newspapers. Reports to the police about that incident, just like many times before, were left unnoticed.

The struggle reached its peak on 20 March, when five activists of non-parliamentary political parties, including State Duma MP Ilya Ponomaryov (of the Green and Social-Democratic Alliance), signed an agreement with the Communists to consolidate forces in the run-up to the mayoral election in Novosibirsk. That is when they decided to recall their nominees to amass votes in support of the Communist candidate, Lokot. Late on 21 March, two CPRF activists, Zheleznodorozhny district committee secretary Sergei Sukhorukov and Dmitry Kamnev, suffered an assault. Two young men stormed into the house where the activists rented premises for the distribution of newspapers and other campaign materials, and opened fire from traumatic guns. Sukhorukov got a bullet in the hand and Kamnev in the neck. Kamnev managed to break out of the apartment and run down the stairs. An attacker fired at him from behind, hitting him in the shoulder-blade. Once out in the street, the activist got into a taxi and asked the driver to call an ambulance and the police. Meanwhile, Sukhorukov attempted to escape by jumping out a second-floor window. He landed badly, breaking a leg and the back. He failed to rise: the “sturdy guys” caught up with him and proceeded to kick away at him, lying.

“Passers-by who heard him crying for help came to his rescue,” regional party committee spokesman Artyom Skatov told the GDF. “They apprehended the assailants before the police arrived.”

The two men were rushed to hospital. They survived by a pure miracle, Skatov said. “The bullet extracted from Kamnev’s neck had narrowly missed an artery. Sukhorukov has been twice operated on: his neck and leg are broken, one of his hands is shot through, and he has numerous bruises.”

Police have already concluded the assault had “nothing to do” with the elections; they say it was an “ordinary household conflict” – and this despite the fact that “the thugs who attacked our guys rented an apartment in the same house, with the URP emblem featuring on the door,” the committee spokesman said.

The political process in Novosibirsk has been marred by ever-increasing gangster activity, the CPRF Central Committee noted in a commentary posted on its official website.

Cancellation of government subsidising puts media subscriptions at risk in Vladivostok

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Journalists and publishers have long been talking about the imminent fall in media subscriptions. This talk started right after it was suggested that subscriptions to all newspapers and magazines be channelled through an Inter-Regional Subscription Agency (MAP) – an idea particularly disfavoured by residents of the Far East, the region which is the most distant from Moscow. Yet the MAP was established, and the vast country’s subscriptions were brought under its control; prices kept increasing, subscriptions kept shrinking, and press delivery to remote regions kept growing less and less regular.

Until 2013, the state allocated at least some funds in support for the press; today, there are plans to shift all the expenditures to the readers. The effects of this initiative are easy to predict: a drastic fall in the number of subscriptions, and potential closure of many media outlets. District newspapers, particularly in the Far East, are destined to find themselves in dire financial straits.

“Subscriptions to newspapers and magazines were subsidised by the state until 2013, with Pochta Rossii [monopoly-holding postal service corporation] getting 3 million roubles a year for those purposes,” said journalist Valery Bakshin, a former head-manager of the newspaper Vladivostok turned director of the Higher School of Television at Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services. “Starting this year, all the expenses are to be shouldered by the media themselves. This means newspaper prices are bound to increase manifold because of the growing costs of delivery.”

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the internet, including at:

Finnish radio company Yleisradio: Interview on freedom of expression in Russia

Park Gagarina: What do you need information for? Heres propaganda instead

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Corrupt MP in Perm Region discloses size of his income

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Region

In response to an appeal by Perm Region Legislative Assembly member Andrei Markov, Yuri Shchebetkov, head of the regional department of Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications], urged the weekly newspaper Novyi Kompanyon (NK) on 26 March to account for its 21 January publication “Double-Faced Justice”.

The NK story reported about the sentences passed on 16 January in the case of Andrei Kulikov, director of the government order service that contracted for the reconstruction of the Komi-Permyak Ethnic Drama Theatre in Kudymkar, and his deputy Nikolai Bykov. Both were found guilty of taking a bribe of 1 million roubles and sentenced to 4 and 7 years in jail with a fine of 30 million and 60 million roubles, respectively. The Sverdlovsky district court in Perm pointed to regional MPs Andrei Markov and Stanislav Cherepanov as the bribe-givers.

As established in the course of investigation and during court hearings, Markov and Cherepanov presented powers of attorney from, and acted on behalf of, the Moscow-based construction company StroiProdukt, registered in the name of a resident of Rostov-on-Don. In line with three contracts signed with the government order service in 2009-2012, the private company received more than 552 million roubles from the state budget moneys. Among other documents, the case files feature protocols of assize conferences at which MP Markov, speaking on behalf of government authorities, urged the state contractor to provide the private firm (which he personally represented) with “the batch of drawings”, determine “the colour and brand of the stone to be used in trimming the façade”, and demanded details about “the brand and cross-section of the cable feeding the reverse cycle pumps within the central heat supply station”.

Running for the regional parliament for the first time in 2006, Markov declared a yearly income of 6.4 million roubles. Five years later, he showed an income of 8.6 million and declared his newly-purchased apartments in Moscow, Yalta and the health resort of Ust-Kachka near Perm. NK reminded the readers of those declarations, while also mentioning the fact that the parliamentarian was relieved of any criminal liability for his bribe-giving in view of his having actively contributed to the exposure of corrupt practices on the part of the state contractor. Yet the Drama Theatre in Kudymkar, which president Putin promised to have reconstructed at the time when the Komi-Permyak Autonomous District was merging with the Perm Region, has not yet been officially accepted for operation because of numerous defects and unfinished jobs.

Appalled by those facts becoming known to the public, Markov complained to Roskomnadzor about what he described as a “violation of the Personal Data Law”. Upon receipt of the oversight authority’s inquiry, NK furnished the following reply:

“When registering in 2006 and 2011 as a candidate for a seat on the Perm Region Legislative Assembly, A. A. Markov presented to the regional electoral committee – of his own free will – information about his stakes in different business companies, his real and movable property, and the size of his income. Acting in line with effective legislation, the electoral committee officially circulated that information through the newspaper Dosye 02 publications dated 17 November 2006 and 11 November 2011.

“During an open hearing of the criminal case of A. I. Kulikov and N. V. Bykov, the Sverdlovsky district court of Perm on 23 December 2013, upholding a motion by the defence, read out that information and added copies of the Dosye 02 publications to the case files as evidence. The regional court of appeals on 13 March 2014 agreed with the decisions passed by the Sverdlovsky district court and left in full legal force the convictive sentences passed on 16 January 2014 in respect of Kulikov and Bykov.

“Markov’s claims about the allegedly unlawful publication of his personal data may be presented to the regional electoral committee, the Sverdlovsky district court or the Perm Region court, but not to the newspaper Novyi Kompanyon which only reminded its readers of some decisions and actions taken by the said government agencies.

“In view of all of the above, Markov’s complaint about the publication ‘Double-Faced Justice’ is not based on law and is misaddressed.”

 

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.

Contacts:

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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Архив
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