13 Августа 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 717

10 August 2015


Rostov Region investigators resume probe into journalist Natalya Skryl’s 2001 murder

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Investigative Department in Taganrog has resumed the investigation of the 2001 killing of Natalya Skryl, a reporter for the regional newspaper Nashe Vremya. On the night of 9 March that year, Skryl, 30, was attacked near her home by unidentified thugs, who left her with at least 14 lethal injuries dealt with “a blunt, solid object”, of which she died in one of the city hospitals hours later.

Both her colleagues and the investigators linked the assault with the victim’s work: Skryl covered economic topics, such as re-division of property in Taganrog – specifically, the vigorous struggle for the local metallurgical works by several Rostov- and Moscow-based oligarchic clans.

“Her last story, which remained unfinished, described plans of building a methanol-pumping terminal in the city of Azov,” Nashe Vremya chief editor Vera Yuzhanskaya recalled. “Green groups supported by the city’s entire population actively protested against that construction, which was in the interests of some very wealthy and influential individuals – and the activists managed to get the project cancelled.”

The investigators have not disclosed the reasons for restarting this long-suspended murder probe. Did they succeed in tracking the killers down or were the attackers detained as suspects in another criminal case? So far, this is an investigative secret that may someday become known to all.


Murmansk-based newspaper Murmansky Vestnik continues to be censored

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Early in August, journalist Tatyana Britskaya of the regional newspaper Murmansky Vestnik carried out an independent investigation into the situation with the cemetery of Soviet pilots killed near the township of Kilpyavr during World War II, but the readers never saw that story published as it was edited out by the recently-appointed acting chief editor, Galina Shedchenko.

The point is that the story criticised Mezhdurechye municipality head Tatyana Yakovleva, who had promised to have eight granite tombstones installed at the burial place, with the names of the fallen war heroes inscribed on them, but had failed to keep her word. Now that Yakovleva is to run as a United Russia party nominee for re-election in September, “publishing any critical stuff about her is inappropriate”, in Shedchenko’s view.

Unwilling to put up with this kind of censorship, Britskaya decided to post her investigative article on the Bloger51 website.

The GDF has already reported on various problems Murmansky Vestnik found itself faced with after Ms Shedchenko took the lead at the newspaper (see digest 698).

Otkrytaya Gazeta wins 10-month litigation with utility company lawyer in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Ipatovsky district court and an appellate board for civil law cases in the region of Stavropol have rejected as groundless all the legal claims that lawyer Irina Goncharenko lodged against the newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta; also, they confirmed the accuracy of the publication the plaintiff claimed to be “insulted” by.

The story in question, published last October, described a large-scale fraud scheme where several utility officials in the city of Ipatovo colluded to forge an act showing that 89 apartment blocks had allegedly had their heating systems fully prepared for the winter. The article’s author, Nadezhda Barnash, leader of the district public group ZhKKh-Kontrol (Oversight over Housing and Communal Service Providers), very naturally asked law enforcement about who, how and where had written off budget funds slated for preparations for the cold season.

The article also mentioned Goncharenko, the Ipatovo district utility’s lawyer, as a person who had covered the fraudsters in different ways, including by stooping to directly intimidate an apartment house steward who dared to inform journalists about machinations with municipal money. In response, Goncharenko filed a lawsuit in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation, claiming first 600,000, then 1 million roubles in moral damages from Otkrytaya.

Yet the court found that the information reported by the newspaper was fully true to fact. This might have been the end of this news note, but it seems appropriate here to add a few details showing how badly corrupt local officials in Ipatovo are. When the plaintiff (who, as we said, is a lawyer by training) missed the deadline for filing an appeal, she asked the local post office head to help her forge a ticket showing that she presumably posted the documents on the last day of the period allowed for appeal-filing. The forgery was not left unnoticed – mainly owing to the Internet, where the movement of each letter or parcel is monitored on Pochta Rossii (Russian Postal Service)’s official website. Of course, the number of the ticket written out by hand at the cunning plaintiff’s request was not registered on the site, which helped to unmask the plotters.

The litigation that started literally over nothing was dragged out for ten months. Goncharenko’s payment of judicial costs will hardly ever compensate the time, nerve and money losses incurred by the defendant. Otkrytaya insists on tougher sanctions for the evildoers. Since the content of the article has passed the court’s check for accuracy, it should give rise (pursuant to Articles 144, 145 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure) to a full-fledged inspection to be carried out by the regional police department for combating economic crime. Besides, the Stavropol police command should take a closer look at the suspicious inaction of Ipatovo law enforcers who have so far been turning a deaf ear to numerous public allegations about large-scale embezzlement of budget funds by local utility officials.

Omsk police puts esprit de corps above law

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Police Col. Aleksandr Becker has lodged with the Kuibyshevsky district court in Omsk a legal claim against TRIES Publishers’, the owner of the Biznes-Kurs (BK) weekly newspaper, demanding a disclaimer of the latter’s article that allegedly was damaging to the plaintiff’s honour, dignity and business reputation. He also claimed 100,000 roubles in moral damages.

Becker acted not as a police official but as a private individual, which in legal terms means that the regional police (MVD) department has nothing whatever to do with his claim. Yet as it turned out during the very first hearing, the MVD Internal Security Division has provided the colonel with confidential legal support.

Actually, he himself acknowledged this fact in court. Asked by a Biznes-Kurs lawyer how’d come to possess the original act of an inspection carried out by Internal Security in the wake of the publication, he said they had provided it at his lawyer’s request as he was filing the claim. “So it was they who provided you with the video, too?” the BK representative asked, and heard “Yes” in reply.

It looks like Mr Becker and the regional police department’s Internal Security do not know that state organisations are forbidden to provide original service materials to anyone; they may only provide certified copies at someone’s official request. Evidently, though, internal security officials put esprit de corps above law when helping one of their own – even despite his acting as a private person.

It is not for the first time that Omsk authorities neglect the law in defending their “damaged” reputation. When the previous governor, Leonid Polezhayev, before retiring three years ago, repeatedly lodged legal claims against Novaya Gazeta, his interests were represented in court not by a hired lawyer but by a deputy head of the administration’s Legal Department, although those claims were filed – likewise – on behalf of a private person, not of the region’s top leader. The judges at the time disregarded those crude procedural violations. Further judicial proceedings will show whether they notice them this time.

Murmansk Region governor’s press office demands disclaimer from SeverPost news website

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The Murmansk-based news agency SeverPost has received a message from the regional governor’s press office. The signatory – Dmitry Ishchenko, head of the Information Policy and Media Relations Department (and concurrently chairman of the regional branch of the Journalists’ Union of Russia) – urged the journalists to disclaim their article “Governor Kovtun Refuses to Answer for a Subordinate ‘Troll’.” The reference is to a series of SeverPost publications about libel proceedings against a member of the regional administration’s press pool.

When its reporters attempted to get the head of the government of Kola Peninsula’s area beyond the Arctic circle to comment on the situation, SeverPost reported, “the lady governor ignored the inquiry about the fate of one of her team members”, which statement Ishchenko labelled “untrue”, because “no official inquiry has ever been sent to the governor”, although his Information Policy Department did receive one, dated 14 July 2015.

Indeed, the inquiry was not sent to Ms Kovtun in person. “Yet what can be deemed to be a media outlet’s official inquiry to the governor if not a letter to her press office?” the bewildered journalists wondered in a post on their agency’s website.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the developments in the Murmansk Region.

Yekaterinburg journalist to seek justice in court

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Maksim Yedryshov, a reporter for the Ekho Moskvy-Yekaterinburg radio station, intends to have the authorities carry through to a logical end their probe into an incident with police participation that happened in Yekaterinburg’s central square on the night of 18 May.

As Yedryshov was recording with his cell phone police officials stopping hockey fans’ cars after the world championship match between Russia and Canada “to test the drivers for alcohol”, a group of policemen detained the journalist (also known as a defender of motorists’ rights), drove him to a police station and locked him into a cell with another detainee who turned out to be a contagious TB carrier. After two hours in the cell, Yedryshov was released with no explanation and with the photo images erased from his phone’s memory stick.

The journalist reported the incident to law enforcement asking to check the lawfulness of the police officers’ behaviour. To the benefit of Valery Gorelykh, head of the regional MVD department’s press service, he promptly commented on the situation, noting that the district inspectors of Police Station No.4 “had not right to prevent [Yedryshov] from taking photo pictures” (see digest 711).

After an internal security check-up, the regional police chief issued an official reprimand to the district police inspector who [unlawfully] took Yedryshov to the police station, police department spokeswoman Irina Buchelnikova told the Е1.RU news agency.

“Well, it is good that police commanders have acknowledged that their subordinates acted unlawfully, but I also intend to ask a court of law to assess the incident in legal terms,” Yedryshov told the GDF.

We will watch further proceedings closely.


Who in Sochi fears man with video camera?

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The regional court in Krasnodar has rejected appeals by Sochi-based journalist Anna Gritsevich and green activist Vladimir Kimayev against their unlawful detention and arrest.

Prior to that, on July 6, the Adlersky district court in Sochi held a hearing to review the case of Gritsevich, a Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) news agency correspondent, who was detained in the village of Chereshnya on 29 June while fulfilling an editorial assignment – covering local residents’ protest action against the dumping of post-flood debris from Sochi on the village outskirts. The journalist had made a video of police dispersing the protesters.

District Judge Aleksandr Yakimenko turned down the defence’s request to hear the testimony of policemen and eyewitnesses, and to accept the video sequences shot by Gritsevich as evidence in the case. Also, he ignored the fact that Gritsevich had been on an editorial assignment, as officially confirmed to the district court by the Kavkazsky Uzel management; and sentenced her to three days of arrest under Administrative Code Article 19.3 (“Non-compliance with a police official’s lawful orders”).

“That was a mockery trial,” her defence lawyer Aleksandr Popkov told the GDF. “Anna was denied the right of a fair trial. The presiding judge refused to question protesters or local residents as eyewitnesses. By the way, none of them was detained; police arrested only Anna Gritsevich and green activist Vladimir Kimayev, who, too, was videoing the proceedings and was likewise sentenced to three days of arrest.”

Once out of prison, Gritsevich and Kimayev filed appeals with the Krasnodar regional court which, however, upheld the Adlersky district court decision while turning their appeals down. Now they are preparing complaints to the regional court presidium and are ready, if need be, to go all the way to the Russian Federation Supreme Court.


Sovremennaya Kalmykiya calls to mark 70th birth anniversary of slain editor Larissa Yudina

Dear friends:

22 October will be the 70th birth anniversary of Larissa Alekseyevna Yudina. Her former colleagues and people remembering her have turned to me suggesting that we mark the jubilee of our friend, colleague and comrade-in-arms in an appropriate manner.

Honestly, I, too, have often thought about Larissa’s forthcoming birth anniversary.

Some have suggested turning for help to the Journalists’ Union of Russia, notifying her widower and children, and holding a remembrance action in Elista by concerted effort. We should collectively think of how to name this would-be meeting. I hereby ask you for assistance, my esteemed friends, hoping for your understanding and support since our own resources (my Elista colleagues’ and mine) are very limited.

We are convinced that Larissa Yudina’s 70th birth anniversary should be marked as she well deserved.

Valery Badmayev, newspaper Sovremennaya Kalmykiya

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,
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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