25 Июля 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 666

21 July 2014


Investigation over, mastermind of editor’s killing in Stavropol Region still unknown

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Investigators in the region of Stavropol have completed a probe into the murder of Nikolai Potapov, a human rights defender, environmentalist, and editor of the newspaper SelSovet.

A former head of the Prigorodny district council, Potapov, 66, was the founder, editor and author of a newspaper that he used to print out on his PC printer and personally deliver in his car around the village, tossing it in residents’ mailboxes. He reported on power abuses and his personal efforts to fight corruption. Also, he was an author for the independent regional newspaper Otkrytaya, contributing reports on a variety of topics, such as vote rigging during municipal elections, machinations with farmland, and local law enforcement’s inaction.

He was lethally wounded near his home in Bykogorka village on 18 May 2013. His killers were promptly apprehended thanks to the video recorder installed on the windshield of his car – three brothers from the Budennovsky district, one of them a former police officer. A couple of days later, a go-between was arrested – the man who had been hired by the mastermind to hand money to the organizers and executors of the killing.

“The name of the suspected mastermind is still an investigative secret,” we wrote in the GDF digest edition of 12 August 2013 (see digest 622). Regrettably, even now that the investigation is over, the instigator of the murder remains unidentified.

As has been established, Potapov was killed by hired assassins for a reward of 500,000 roubles. One of the killers, the former police officer, even received half of that amount. It is also known that the victim was not acquainted with his killers, which rules out personal enmity as a possible motive.

The results of the investigation have once again shown that prepaid killings of journalists are still too hard a nut to crack for law enforcement in today’s Russia.

Prominent Omsk-based blogger again charged with fraud in a suspended 9-year-old case

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A prominent Omsk-based blogger is again facing charges of fraud he allegedly committed about 9 years ago.

The regional police department rushed to resume legal proceedings against Sergei Selivanov, a well-known blogger and leader of the “For Our Rights” movement, a few months before the expiry of the 10-year limitation period, charging him with an offence punishable under Criminal Code Article 159.4 – misappropriation of a large sum of money. Allegedly, one local businessman in 2005 gave another a bearer note worth 10 million roubles, which the other man cashed and ran away. Caught by police two months later, he testified that he had acted on orders from Selivanov – also a businessman at the time – and it was to Selivanov that he had given the stolen money.

Yet there are documents proving that Selivanov at the time of the crime was in hospital, recovering after a violent assault by unidentified persons, who left him, according to the medical certificate, with “a concussion, a fracture of the scull, cerebral haemorrhage, and traumas of the neck, backbone, kidneys, liver, and intestines”. The police never found the assailants, and could “never find them in principle”, Selivanov says, because the attack followed his refusal to kick back part of his profit to the police – the very same reason why the initial charges of “fraud” were brought against him in 2005. The case, built entirely on the testimony of a man known to have stolen a valuable financial document, did not result in Selivanov’s conviction at the time, however hard the police were pressing for that.

Halted in 2006, the proceedings have now been resumed “in view of new evidence surfaced”. Selivanov says he knows this trick: over the many years of his work as a businessman and then as a human rights defender – after the whole of his business was taken away with the help of the same law enforcement officials – he has learned their strategy and tactics well. A second witness for the prosecution has now appeared in his case – a man serving time in a penal colony, who suddenly decided to tell law enforcement the “truth” he has concealed for nearly 9 years. As a person behind bars, i.e., in an absolutely dependent position, “that guy simply had no other way out,” Selivanov told the GDF.

The 9-year-old criminal case drew renewed police attention after Selivanov staged a series of protect actions and wrote in his blog, among other things, about law enforcers’ potential implication in the killing of one of Russia’s best boxers, Ivan Klimov. Also, he posted reports on several news websites about the disappearance of 116,000 bottles of counterfeit vodka, the loss of which after its seizure by the police was confirmed by a federal ministry inspection, but no one has been held liable for that.

Birobijan mayor loses in court to journalists

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A district court in Birobijan, capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region, has satisfied an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim filed against Birobijan Mayor Andrei Parkhomenko by Sergei Buryndin, editor of the newspaper Gazeta na Dom. The court found some of the city head’s statements regarding the editor to be untrue.

It all began on 8 May during a sitting of the city Duma, where Parkhomenko, enraged by Gazeta’s report about the [unlawful] sale of the Rodina cinema by the municipal administration, snapped at the editor: “Hey, mister, I’ve read that article in your newspaper, and I’m telling you for everyone to hear that you are a cheat, liar and schemer! Write that down into the protocol!”

“You go sue me!” Buryndin replied.

“You may be sure I will!” the mayor said. “Or, if you choose to sue me, I’ll be there in court by all means! The things you wrote in your newspaper are all lies – you hear me? You deceive the public, and the most vexing point about it is that you do this using the media. Remember my words!”

Not only did Sergei Buryndin remember the mayor’s statements – he cited them word for word in the text of his legal claim. Now that the court decision has come into full legal force, Mayor Parkhomenko is to disclaim his statements concerning the editor at the next sitting of the city Duma, and to pay him 100,000 roubles in moral damages, plus 200 roubles to reimburse the state duty he paid when filing the claim.

In 2009, Gazeta na Dom staffers won in court defending against regional Legislative Assembly deputies who were claiming 15 million roubles in reputational damages from them. The city court in Birobijan turned the MPs’ claim down at the time. And the latest Gazeta report about the sale of the Rodina cinema has given rise to legal proceedings against the municipal administration under Criminal Code Article 159 (“Fraud”).

Last newsstand closed in Magdagachi township

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The last newsstand selling newspapers and magazines to residents of Magdagachi township, Amur Region, has been pulled down. Its roof leaked, and the authorities failed to find the money to purchase a new one.

Locals are feeling frustrated and indignant: newspapers and magazines sold well, and the rate of profit was high. People came from other parts of the district to buy the fresh press. Many subscribed on the “till called for” basis, to pick up newspapers right at the newsstand. If Pochta Rossii [monopoly-holding Russian postal service] decided to purchase a new press kiosk, it would return its money in less than a year, newsvendor Lyubov Odintsova told the GDF.

Regional court in Voronezh upholds district court decision in favour of newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The regional court in Voronezh on 15 July rejected an appeal by Denis Petrov, director of the local branch of Russian State University of Commerce and Economics, against the Leninsky district court’s 29 April decision to turn down his honour, dignity and reputation protection claim against the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Voronezhe, lodged in the wake of a critical publication questioning his professionalism and scientific achievements. Petrov wanted the newspaper to pay him 1 million roubles in damages (see digest 646 ).

The regional court, however, left the first-instance court’s ruling in full legal force. The newspaper’s interests were represented in court by lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova of the Media Defence Centre.

FSB in Perm acts as advocate for non-existing organisation

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The criminal case of Roman Yushkov, who has been charged with committing two offences by publishing his story “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style” in the newspaper Zvezda on 19 July 2013, is seeing a scandalous continuation.

As we reported earlier (see digests 621, 651, 653 656 and 665), the authorities strongly reacted to the polemic article by Yushkov, the holder of a Ph.D. in geography, in which he pointed to the need to resist the outrage of North Caucasian criminal gangs. The FSB accused the author of committing crimes punishable under Criminal Code Articles 280.2 (“Public calls for acts of extremism involving the use of media”) and 282.1 (“Instigation of hatred or enmity, as well as disparagement of human dignity, involving the use of media”). Perm Region Deputy Prosecutor Aleksandr Deryshov endorsed the indictment, giving the green light to the start of proceedings at the Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm on 4 July.

Lawyer Dmitry Lobanov, who has defended Yushkov since 10 July, made two motions on 21 July for the 5-volume case to be returned to the prosecutor for purposes of eliminating a number of discrepancies. For example, back on 19 March Sergei Vodyanenko, a senior investigator with the local FSB department, referred to a group called “Sodruzhestvo Public Association of Chechen and Ingush Republics’ Representatives in the Perm Region” as the victim in the case. Yet the state registration certificates contained in the case files mention a different legal entity – “NPO Perm Regional Public Association Sodruzhestvo”, whose official range of activities does not include the protection of anyone’s ethnic or social interests.

The data about the victim in the text of the indictment do not include information about the nature or scope of the damage it has allegedly suffered. With reference to the decision of the 5 March 2014 Plenary Meeting of the RF Supreme Court, the defence reminded the court that in such circumstances, no decision shall be passed, and the case shall be returned to the prosecutors.

After 1 hour and 9 minutes in the retiring room, Judge Oleg Spiridonov decided to overrule the two defence motions. “The existing contradictions between the investigator’s identification of the victim and the registration documents contained in the case files can be eliminated in the course of the courtroom proceedings,” he said, among other things, in his final decision. He preferred to disregard the common practices established by the Supreme Court for handling cases of this kind.

The next hearing is scheduled for 22 July.

Court in Yekaterinburg turns down police general’s legal claim against news agency

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Yekaterinburg on 17 July turned down an honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged by police general Nikolai Mardasov, a former chief of the now-liquidated Interior Ministry (MVD) Department for the Urals Federal District, against the online news agency Ura.ru in the wake of its publication “Department Scrapped, Officials Dismissed, No Justice Done”. The story cited a message to MVD Head Vladimir Kolokoltsev, written by a group of Urals top brass who actually accused Mardasov of committing a number of serious offences.

Some of the letter’s authors appeared in court to personally confirm their having sent the said message to the minister. “Moreover, the MVD has officially acknowledged the letter’s receipt, thereby allowing us to prove that such a complaint really existed,” defence lawyer Dmitry Lebedev, who represented the news agency’s interests in court, told the GDF. “As regards the authors, there is no reason whatsoever to have them held liable – they only exercised their constitutional right of appeal to government authorities. They didn’t send their complaint to the media, and we don’t know how it ended up in the Ura.ru offices.”

Judging by the police general’s mood, the litigation has only begun, and he is very likely to appeal. “So far, the score is 1 – 0 and we win,” the journalists said in jest.

[Based on Ura.ru news agency reports]



Magazine editor tried on charges of justifying extremism

Proceedings started on 18 June in the Inter-district Special Administrative Court in Almaty, with Judge D. Alybayev presiding, to hear a legal claim lodged by the Almaty Internal Affairs Department’s administrative unit against Zharylgap Kalybai, editor of the magazine Zhuldyzdar Otbasy – Anyz Adam.

The motive for starting yet another round of judicial proceedings against the journalist was April’s issue of his magazine, which was dedicated to analysis of the personality of Adolf Hitler. N. Mukanova, an expert with the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Studies Centre, found that one of the issue’s stories, “Adolf Hitler – Fascist Yemes”, was indicative of the author’s attempt to justify extremism – an offence punishable under Administrative Code Article 344.2, of which Kalybai was then officially accused.

However, an invited linguist – Rakhilya Karymsakova, Ph.D. (Philology) – told the court that, after studying Anyz Adam issue No. 8, 2014, she had concluded there were no signs of attempted justification of extremism in its content.

The next hearing is scheduled for 24 July. The court granted a request by Kalybai’s defence lawyers to subpoena Mukanova to testify.

[Adilsoz.kz report, 18 July]



Regional court in Omsk turns down lawyer A. Putin’s claim against broadcaster

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional court in Omsk has rejected a legal claim lodged by Andrei Putin, a lawyer, against the TV/radio company GTRK-Omsk, thereby confirming a prior ruling to the same effect passed by the Sovetsky district court. The plaintiff wanted the broadcaster to disclaim an aired statement that had allegedly damaged not only his own dignity but also that of the man he considers to be his father – the President of the Russian Federation.

Earlier Putin Jr., 30, (who is a lawyer by training, just as Putin Sr.) told a number of Omsk-based media about his “2002 secret meeting with the president in Moscow”, where the head of state had allegedly acknowledged his having had in his green years a love affair with the mother of the hapless guy from Siberia. Impressed by that confession, Andrei Aleksandrovich Volokhin returned to Omsk, went to the vital statistics office and did his utmost – evidently not without difficulty – to change his name to Andrei Vladimirovich Putin.

Earlier this year, after President Putin divorced his wife Lyudmila, his “illegitimate son” started pressing for the “restoration of historical truth”: he asked the Sovetsky district court to order a DNA test and to subpoena his presumptive father to testify. He wasn’t pursuing any personal ends, he told journalists; all he wanted was to “arrive at the truth”: there was a chance he had met not with President Putin but with one of his look-alikes. After the district and regional courts resolutely rejected his claims, he said he would go all the way to Strasbourg. GTRK-Omsk anchorman Vladimir Mutovkin warned him that acting as insistently as he had he might come to a sticky end, because “presidential lawyers might wish to take a closer look at the case”, while “many experts have already suggested it’s a case to be handled by psychiatrists, rather than lawyers”.

Taking that as an offence not only to himself but also to his unidentified father (since mental diseases are often hereditary), Andrei Putin lodged yet another legal claim, demanding a disclaimer from the broadcaster and moral damage compensation to himself and the president. He failed, though, to specify the claimed amount, evidently leaving that to the discretion of the judges, regional court spokeswoman Anastasia Lukyanova said. Yet the district court decided that the broadcaster’s information was true to life and there was nothing to disclaim; and the regional court upheld that decision. It is still unclear whether Andrei Putin will challenge it or not.

Municipal authorities in Kostomuksha, Karelia, restrict reporters’ access to information by requiring accreditation

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

MPs and officials of the municipal administration in Kostomuksha, Karelia, have more than once during the past year expressed dissatisfaction with the local media’s performance. Yet all their attempts to bring the media under administrative control have been rebuffed in a well-reasoned manner, to eventually end in nothing. This seems to explain why the city authorities have now come up with new draft regulations, “On the order of media and media worker accreditation with the self-government bodies in the Kostomuksha municipality” – a piece of legislation they have somehow managed to do without up until now.

Analysis of the document reveals its authors’ attempt to defend themselves against “excessive” media attention to the work of municipal officials and MPs by imposing maximum restrictions on the journalists’ professional right to gather information. Actually, the deputies wanted to sign the new regulations into law at a City Council session back in May, but after the document hit the media headlines and drew critical comments from Yelena Paltseva, a lawyer with the Legal Experts’ Partnership “Soyuz”, the authorities took a pause. “The authors thought up a variety of restrictions and limitations to keep the press effectively barred from the backroom of municipal power,” Paltseva said.

To begin with, the developers of the new regulations proposed to restrict the range of persons authorised to gather information within the city administration headquarters; for that purpose, they suggested that only reporters for the officially registered media be granted accreditation. “Objection!” they heard in reply: in line with the RF media law, newspapers with a circulation of up to 1,000, for example, need not undergo registration while not losing any of their rights. Again, registration is not mandatory for online news outlets, the number of which already exceeds that of the print media. Apparently, MPs in Kostomuksha are seeking to leave the fastest-developing media sector without information about what is going on in the city.

No less odd is the draft provision requiring media outlets to report on each official event attended by their journalists, while also carrying administration press releases on the subject – quote –“in their original wording and with mandatory acknowledgment of the source”. The authors of that clause evidently do not know that the media law allows the news outlets to pursue their own editorial policies and not act the way the ruling elite would like them to, and that accredited journalists needn’t treat municipal press releases as holy scriptures, never venturing to correct a single letter or comma in their texts when citing them.

A number of draft provisions are impracticable in principle. For example, the option of getting accreditation for either one year or one month requires a journalist applying for one-year accreditation to have specialised in covering local self-government activities “on a standing basis”. For smaller media outlets, having their own “parliamentary correspondents” is just unaffordable. All local reporters are “Jacks of all trades” who must be able to write a report on whatever topic the editor may assign. City Council deputies should know that by requiring this kind of reporter specialisation, they exclude many small-sized news outlets.

Yet another requirement – that a journalist may report on the private life of city rulers only with their consent – is indeed surprising. If the media editors stuck to this norm, no investigative report on top-echelon corruption would ever be published. Moreover, such a requirement is at odds with the position of the European Court of Human Rights and with Paragraph VII of the EU Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, stating that information about the “private life and family life of political figures and public officials … may be disseminated where it is of direct public concern”.

The Kostomuksha draft regulations on accreditation prohibit any audio, video, cine or photo recordings in the process of information gathering, except with prior authorisation from the city authorities. The person who wrote this clause certainly has never read the RF media law (Art.47), which imbues the journalists with such a right.

Lawyer Yelena Paltseva compiled a whole list of such objections. When highlighting to MPs the points clearly contradicting federal legislation, she stressed that no one is allowed to violate the Russian constitution or media law by arbitrarily deciding who deserves accreditation and who doesn’t. In line with the proposed document, a correspondent may be stripped of his or her accreditation in case of violating any of its provisions. Yet the media law stipulates that there may be only one motive for this kind of a reporter’s legal incapacitation – not merely a violation of a statute provision by a journalist (as perceived by MPs or officials of the city administration), but such a violation that has been proven in court and confirmed by a judicial decision in full legal force.

On the whole, the accreditation regulations draft is designed to deter journalists from telling the public what MPs and municipal officials are busy doing. The authors may be shocked to learn that the mechanism of accreditation was designed in the first place to create the most favourable conditions for reporters to do their professional work. Whether a journalist has an accreditation or not does not matter at all, because any media outlet is allowed under the law to cover the activities of any government body. Actually, Kostomuksha-based reporters are entitled to attend administration-organised events without any accreditation – except those events where state or commercial secrets are discussed.

The draft regulations have been submitted for analysis to legal experts from the government department in charge of media affairs. Evidently, this story is to be continued…



Liability for calls for separatism and for use of foul language: Recommendations by Media Defence Centre

The Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre has posted on its website, in the section “Media Lawyer’s Advice”, recommendations concerning newly-enacted Russian laws forbidding calls for separatism and the use of obscenities in media publications.

The recommendations include analysis of legal provisions, their correct interpretation, and practical advice (“safety rules”) for individual journalists and media outlets.

(See www.mmdc.ru and www.mmdc.ru).


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
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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