10 Ноября 2014 года

Glasnost Defence Foundation digest No. 682

5 November 2014


Director of Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg still at law with customs officials who unlawfully detained her at Pulkovo Airport six months ago

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Six months after her detention at the Pulkovo Airport, Regional Press Institute Director Anna Sharogradskaya continues challenging customs officials’ actions at the Moskovsky district court in St. Petersburg.

Not only did the customs officers detain the human rights activist on 5 June; they also confiscated her notebook PC, Ipad and flash memory cards with recorded information (for details, see http://gdf.ru/digest/item/1/1188#r1 ).

From the outset, it was unclear why the customs service should have claims to the director of a prominent human rights organisation. Sharogradskaya herself says they suspected her of an attempt to smuggle out sensitive information that potentially threatened Russia’s security. Even if so, what has the customs service to do with that? Eventually, the service attempted to shirk responsibility for going far beyond its range of authority (it had no right at all to detain a passenger) by claiming that it had not detained anyone, and that Sharogradskaya had been free to board her plane – only leaving the data media behind, for no evident reason.

It is this reason that Sharogradskaya and her lawyers are trying to find out in the course of hearings of their legal claim against Pulkovo’s customs service. Her seized property has not yet been returned to her. She is determined to pursue the case to the end, and not so much because of the lost property but as a matter of principle, Sharogradskaya told the GDF, adding that in the past few months her institute – an NGO with an impeccable reputation – has been subjected to all sorts of inspections by district and city prosecutors’ offices, fire inspectors, and the police. The way the RPI and its director in person are quietly and with dignity resisting law enforcement’s pressure and lawless actions is really impressive and deserves high praise.

Rostov-based journalist sentenced to nine years in tight-security penal colony

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Kushchevsky district court on 29 October sentenced Rostov-based journalist Aleksandr Tolmachev to nine years in a tight-security penal colony.

The hearings were relocated to the Krasnodar Region because Tolmachev in his critical publications mentioned quite a few judges from Rostov.

Tolmachev, chief editor of the web newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit’, along with Vit Company head-managers Yuri Galagan and Yelena Morozova, was accused of extortion under Criminal Code Article 163. All three were detained on 15 December 2011 near the mayor’s office in Novocherkassk by officers of the regional police department’s counter-extremism unit. According to law enforcers, police had received information about Tolmachev, Galagan and Morozova’s allegedly extorting a BMW car from businessman Kozlov, director of Sofia Ltd. They wanted the car, which was worth 1.2 million roubles, in exchange for not publishing compromising information about Kozlov’s 25-year-old son, an officer with a special police unit against economic crime. The warrant to start criminal proceedings against the accused said they were detained while formalising their ostensible purchase of the BMW from Kozlov, who had offered them his car instead of money. A few hours later the three detainees were released, but five days later Tolmachev was again arrested and placed behind bars. Galagan and Morozova are still going free; they did not appear in the Kushchevsky court when the sentence was announced and have been put on the police wanted list.

Apart from that episode, Tolmachev was accused of extorting money from two other entrepreneurs – a businesswoman from Novocherkassk and one of Tolmachev’s business partners, the owner of a large construction company, Slavyane, Yuri Pogiba, who claimed Tolmachev had twice attempted to wring a large sum of money – 6 million roubles – from him. Tolmachev himself and his numerous supporters and public advocates see the start of criminal proceedings against him long before his arrest in Novocherkassk as someone’s revenge for his activities as a human rights defender. Several rallies have been staged in Rostov in support of Tolmachev, and petitions have been signed calling top-ranking Russian leaders’ attention to his case.

In his numerous critical publications, Tolmachev accused Galina Abramova, deputy chair of the Leninsky district court in Rostov, of bribe-taking, and Viktor Tkachev, chairman of the higher-standing regional court, of protecting Abramova and generally, of being behind the “judicial outrage” engulfing the Rostov Region. His case caused broad public repercussions, particularly after Judge Abramova was compelled to resign and died shortly afterward of a fatal oncologic disease, with her son lodging a legal claim against Tolmachev on charges of libel (see digest 502 released in 2010).

This time, too, Tolmachev repeatedly called high-ranking regional law enforcement and judicial officials, including Judge Tkachev, the masterminds of the extortion case started against him on trumped-up charges. Tkachev suddenly died of a heart attack on 10 October, the day when Tolmachev was to make his last plea at the trial in Kushchevka. A note posted on Tolmachev’s website that day was entitled “The Mastermind’s Dead. What Next?” (see http://info-prav-centr.com/index.php/rubriki/79-tv2/1479-2014-10-13-08-42-26 ).

Tolmachev and his lawyer have already appealed to the Krasnodar Region court against the sentence passed by the Kushchevsky district court.

Penal department in Chelyabinsk lodges reputation-protection claim against a Public Oversight Commission member

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Chelyabinsk Region department of the Federal Penal Service has lodged a legal claim against human rights defender, journalist and Public Oversight Commission (POC) member Oksana Trufanova – the very same woman who stood outside a penal colony in Kopeisk two years ago watching law enforcers quench inmates’ uprising against torture and extortion practised by the management, and trying to help prisoners defend their rights; the very same woman who has all the while been protesting against police attempts to shield the colony’s ex-director D. Mekhanov from criminal liability. At some point, the penal department found itself so annoyed by her actions that it ordered that its lawyers file a claim against Trufanova in defence of the agency’s “business reputation”.

The Leninsky district court in Chelyabinsk served a summons on Trufanova, in which Judge A. Gervasyev required both parties, especially the claimant, in line with Articles 56-57 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, to make sure they have sufficient evidence to substantiate their respective positions.

“The claim was lodged on behalf of Federal Penal Colony No.1 in Kopeisk, where inmates, in my view, are forced to work as slaves and are kept in virtually torturous conditions,” Trufanova said. “This is my personal evaluative opinion that I am fully free to express. I still don’t know anything about the claim’s content. I am asking the media for support and demanding that the penal department furnish explanations why they filed a legal claim against a single member of a Public Oversight Commission if POC members always go on inspection missions in two-person teams. Do they mean to say I alone inflicted reputational damage on them? What’s this – a biased approach or an attempt to revenge themselves on me?”

Court requires senator from Perm to be tolerant to media criticism

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region court, upon reviewing Senator Igor Shubin’s legal claim against Filolog magazine, has issued a representation saying, “The claimant’s official position requires him as a member of the Federation Council to be ready for close public attention and for negative assessments of his performance; [any public official] must be tolerant to criticism and open-minded comments. Moreover, he should be ready to subject himself to public debate and media criticism as a figure that to a certain degree is open to public control.”

Shubin, an ex-mayor of Perm turned senator, claimed hurt by the article “Dangerous Illusions” published in the Discussions section of Filolog magazine’s issue No.25, released last year. In particular, he disliked the passage that read: “While the naïve governor dreamed that tourism and some ‘creative’ industries might save our region, his subordinates Borisovets, Shubin, Lukanin et al. destroyed two machine-building plants in Perm – Velta and the Dzerzhinsky works.” Shubin lodged with the Sverdlovsky district court a legal claim to protect his honour, dignity and business reputation, and get compensated for the moral damage he allegedly suffered.

Journalist Yuliya Batalina and Filolog, a methodological, cultural and educational magazine issued by the Perm-based State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University (PGGPU), posed as the defendants. The state-controlled university hastened to accept the claim, remove the disputed article, freeze the magazine’s publication, and suspend its editor-in-chief, Galina Rebel, Ph.D. (Philology), a professor with the Russian and Foreign Literature Department at PGGPU.

Judge Yuliya Yarinskaya on 18 June 2014 paid heed to the arguments presented by Batalina and Rebel. Seeing the disputed passage as an expression of the author’s subjective evaluative opinion, and acknowledging the need to promote freedom of expression, the district court turned Shubin’s claim down in full. The claimant appealed to the higher-standing regional court, which upheld the first-instance court’s decision with reference to a precedent set by the RF Supreme Court, which supported the Council of Europe Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media (2004). The declaration explains that politicians and public officials “have decided to appeal to the confidence of the public and accepted to subject themselves to public political debate and are therefore subject to close public scrutiny and potentially robust and strong public criticism through the media over the way in which they have carried out or carry out their functions.”

Unfortunately, the article which Senator Shubin disliked so much has not yet been restored on the magazine’s website at: http:// www.philolog.pspu.ru.


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in October 2014

Deaths of journalists – 1 (Valery Donskoy, freelance journalist, Moscow Region)

Attacks on journalists – 13 (Maksim Zakharov, chief editor, Smolenskaya Narodnaya Gazeta newspaper, Smolensk; film crew with Rossiya TV Channel, Moscow; Dmitry Shevchenko, press secretary, North Caucasus Ecological Watch group, Krasnodar; Dmitry Florin, freelance reporter, Moscow; film crew with Alpha TV Channel, Blagoveshchensk; German Panteleyev, cameraman, 360 Podmoskovye TV Channel, Moscow; Aleksandr Muchayev, reporter, Ridus news website, Moscow; film crew with LifeNews TV Channel, Moscow; Ilya Azovsky, chief editor, Ekho Russkogo Severa, Arkhangelsk; REN TV film crew, Saratov; Ivan Vaganov, correspondent, Tsentralnaya Gazeta newspaper, Ulan-Ude; film crew with Arig Us Radio/TV Company, Ulan-Ude; REN TV film crew, Moscow)

Instances of censorship – 3 (media in Sakhalin Region; Ekho Moskvy radio station, Moscow; media in Chuvashia)

Legal claims against journalists and media – 2 (Pavel Shekhtman, freelance journalist, Moscow; Yevgeny Kurakin, reporter, Printsip newspaper, Moscow Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 6 (Zure Pinka, Elmaz Veliyeva, Suriye Ibragimova, Arzy Selimova, Ediye Ablayeva, and Aider Yagyayev, all six are journalists with Crimean Tatar creative group at Krym State TV/Radio Company, Simferopol)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 4 (Pavel Shekhtman, freelance journalist, Moscow; Oleg Baturin, reporter, Ukrainian newspaper Novy Den’, Kherson – detained in Crimea; Randy Covington and Joe Bergantino, freelance American reporters – detained in St. Petersburg; Yevgeny Kurakin, reporter, Printsip newspaper, Moscow Region)

Refusals to provide information – 43 (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions)

Threats against journalists and media – 10 (Maksim Rumyantsev, KRIK-TV special reporter – threatened twice; journalists with Pravda Severo-Zapada newspaper, Arkhangelsk; Zakharov, chief editor, Smolenskaya Narodnaya Gazeta newspaper, Smolensk; Dmitry Yezhov, chief editor and owner of Ulpressa news portal, Ulyanovsk; Oleg Baturin, reporter, Ukrainian newspaper Novy Den’, Kherson – threatened in Crimea; Dmitry Shevchenko, press secretary, North Caucasus Ecological Watch, Krasnodar; Dmitry Florin, freelance journalist, Moscow; film crew with Alpha Channel, Blagoveshchensk; Ivan Vaganov, correspondent, Tsentralnaya Gazeta newspaper, Ulan-Ude)

Ejection of publication, etc., from its premises – 1 (Dozhd TV Channel, Moscow)

Closure of media – 1 (Krasnoye Znamya newspaper, Komi Republic)

Interference with internet publications – 4 (website of Russian News Service, Moscow; PenzaNews, Penza, twice; website of web publication Penza-Sport, Penza)

Confiscation of/ damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 6 (video camera of Rossiya TV Channel, Moscow; video camera of 360 Podmoskovye TV Channel, Moscow; video camera of Lifenews TV Channel, Moscow; telephone of Ivan Vaganov, correspondent for newspaper Tsentralnaya Gazeta, Ulan-Ude; video camera of Arig Us TV/Radio Company, Ulan-Ude, confiscated in 2012; computers of Den’ TV show, Komi Republic)

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire, tax inspectors, etc.) – 2 (Ekho Moskvy radio station, Moscow; Regional Press Institute, St. Petersburg)

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 31


Mayor’s office in Izhevsk unwilling to publish documents authorising major budget-financed transaction

By Yulia Suntsova, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Mayoral officials in the capital of Udmurtia have been refusing to publish their decisions that gave the go-ahead to a major transaction involving the purchase of scrapped trams from Germany.

Over the years of my work as a reporter for a private Izhevsk-based newspaper, my attempts to get information from different government bodies and individual officials have yielded different results, although in most cases their reaction boiled down to purely formal replies, denials of accreditation, hung-up phones, promises to “consult with the boss”, and other administrative tricks. The latest formal and pretty meaningless reply to an inquiry filed with the Izhevsk administration will for long remain as a real gem in my collection of bureaucratic absurdities.

The inquiry, lodged by the newspaper Den’, was about the details of that big transaction with trams. The state order for the purchase by the public transport company IzhGorElektroTrans of ten scrapped trams from Berlin, worth a total of 27 million roubles, caused broad public repercussions. The sale of the trams, made in Czechoslovakia back in the 1980s, was effected through Wilhelm Schock, a German intermediary born in Kazakhstan, who had already carried out quite a few similar deals with several ex-Soviet and East European countries to sell worn-out trams at a price several times exceeding their true value.

I started an independent investigation and found out that this dubious transaction was approved by decisions signed by Izhevsk Mayor Aleksandr Ushakov and by City Administration Head Denis Agashin. I cited the outgoing numbers of the relevant decisions in my journalistic report, but their content remained unknown, because none of those decisions had been made public either through the media or through the official municipal website.

To read the relevant documents, and in full accordance with effective legislation, we sent a message to the mayoral Information Analysis Department asking them to provide the texts of such a great interest to the media and our readers. We printed out the request on an official letterhead and had it signed and sealed by the chief editor… A week later, we received from the mayor’s office a reciprocal request to allow them some more time to prepare an answer, in view of their being “overloaded with other work”. No problem, we thought: we might wait for a while. Finally, on 20 October, we received a reply that we found really amazing. It said, “The mayor’s office may refuse to provide information that has already been published in the media or posted in the Internet.” There was a “but”, though: the way the bureaucrats looked at it, the “already published information” was our own publication simply mentioning the numbers of the mayoral decisions that were actually concealed from the public!

With reference to Article 20.3 of Federal Law No.8-FZ of 9 February 2009, “On access to information about the performance of government bodies and local self-governments”, they wrote that our newspaper, Den’, in its issue No.38 of 8 October 2014, “already carried information about Decision No.133 of the Head of the Municipality of Izhevsk approving Decision No.220 of 13 March 2014 by the Head of Administration of the City of Izhevsk allowing IzhGorElektroTrans … to carry out the transaction involving the purchase of trams.”

Evidently, the city leaders do not know that in line with Article 35.13 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ, “On the general principles of local self-government organisation in the Russian Federation”, any normative act adopted by a municipal administration shall be endorsed by its head and shall be made public for everyone to know within 10 days’ time.

Moreover, in accordance with Article 47.2 of the same law, municipal normative acts affecting the rights, freedoms or duties of citizens shall take effect only (sic!) after their official publication. Also, based on the principles of reasonable openness and transparency of the government bodies and the budgetary funds they expend (in the case of German trams, they were paid for from the regional budget as government-ordered assets), any normative acts adopted by those government bodies cannot be deemed to fall within the category of classified information.

One is left to wonder: what was so “secret” about those mayoral decisions authorising the purchase of the worn-out trams?


Colleagues say that only a few years ago, those at the helm used to call journalists directly; administration officials, parliamentarians, military commanders and judges would come to newspaper offices of their own free will to share their plans, achievements, observations and best practices, and generally to discuss any important local developments. Today, they prefer to communicate with the public through official letters. It’s safer, indeed: one is guaranteed against saying “more than due”, or hearing any “awkward” or “wrongly intoned” questions. They no longer want to be on “friendly terms” with the press – rather, they will keep referring to a need to “consult” their bosses, demanding “coordination of texts”, or advancing various newly-invented, anonymous, and absolutely unlawful requirements. I think every journalist has at least once felt annoyed by those refusals to provide information to a degree of feeling very much like suing some bureaucrat or another. Yet few have really gone to court, because every reporter is always hard-pressed for time... And what evidence can one get to substantiate a legal claim against a high-ranking official?


The Glasnost Defence Foundation on 28 October received a reply from the RF Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Region of Saratov, signed by its deputy chief, I. Filichkin. The document says, in part: “This is to inform you that an inspection has been carried out to check the facts mentioned in your appeal, and legal proceedings have been started under Criminal Code Article 116.2 in view of the bodily harm inflicted on Mr. A. Krutov. The Main Directorate has taken the investigation of this incident under its oversight, and operative search measures are currently being taken to identify the perpetrators.”

As we have reported, after two unknown thugs attacked Aleksandr Krutov on 26 August, beating the journalist with an iron bar and a baseball bat, the GDF appealed to law enforcement in Saratov urging them to carry out a full-scale investigation and identify both the attackers and those who hired them.

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.


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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