27 Августа 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 719

24 August 2015


Stavropolye TV company film crew attacked in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Stavropol Region has long been notorious for its barbaric, often illegal, extraction of mineral resources at which law enforcement has most often connived.

A film crew with the State TV/Radio Company Stavropolye, tasked to carry out an independent investigation, got on the trail of a firm in the Kochubeyevsky district that illegally poached for gravel, carrying it away by lorry from a local quarry.

Hardly had videographer Sergei Tabala switched on his camera and journalist Anastasia Ependiyeva begun speaking into the mike, when a car pulled over and a man jumped out, starting after the cameraman, throwing stones at him and demanding the recorded video cassette. Seeing that the reporters would not give up their equipment easily, the man started pelletting their car with pieces of rock, then opened the boot and proceeded to empty its contents – a tripod, a gas can, etc. – onto the ground. Finally, he took away the keys to prevent the journalists from leaving the place, which caused them to call the police.

Eventually, the crew members were forced to exchange the cassette for the keys. The attackers, unaware that police were already on the way to the scene, urged the journalists to drive away immediately. Upon seeing a patrol car, they “scattered in all directions like roaches”, Ependiyeva told the GDF, adding that “the police were able to catch only one of them”.

Ependiyeva and Tabala spent the following six hours at the police station giving testimony. They were shocked to hear that their opponents had filed a counterclaim against them (a widespread practice of North Caucasian criminals), accusing them of “illegally shooting video sequences”.

The reporters told the whole story live on the air, and showed a video that featured a sturdy grey-haired security man, old enough to be their father, attacking the young journalists. Although the cassette was gone, the recording was saved on the camera’s hard disc.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the company concerned, OOO KubanAgroServis, extracted mineral resources without a license, and hence, without paying taxes into the relevant budget. Also, it was known for not reclaiming exhausted mines and thus leaving the region with large spaces of non-usable land.

Amid a check-up that has been started, regional police chief Aleksandr Oldak has pledged to personally oversee progress in the investigation of the assault on the film crew in the Kochubeyevsky district. And Stavropolye head manager Ilya Kanavin has left this message on his Facebook page:

“Thanks to everyone – colleagues and others – who responded and reacted to the news about the attack on our film crew… I’ve no questions as to why the attackers behaved the way they did, as we all can see [in the video]. Nor have I any questions as to who or how brought those people up or the kind of morals they have. Yet I have a few other questions that I hope I’ll be able to get answered, and soon:

1. Why did the patrolmen sent to the quarry say they ‘found no one there’ while we were confronting a group of [aggressive-looking] people at the very same time?

2. Why were the attackers so self-confident, as regards their behaviour and the methods they used?

3. Who prompted the attackers to lodge a counterclaim against our reporters?

4. What measures will the authorities take to curb the barbarous destruction of our environment which has now become a routine practice?

5. How difficult is it for the authorities to find out where from the loaded lorries are coming and where they are heading for?

6. Who uses the services of the numerous illegal mineral resource extractors?

7. And the main question: Are the authorities interested in matters like these at all?”

Printing house in Adygei Republic takes on censor’s functions

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

During the last decade of July, the printing house in Maikop which prints Zakubanye, a newspaper co-owned by the public group “The Slav Union of Adygei”, has arrested the print run of a regular issue of the newspaper. The official version is that the printing house director filed a report with the police saying that the arrested number featured a “dubious” article. The reference was to a repost from Gazeta.ru in which contract army servicemen and their relatives were cited as saying that several dozen contract soldiers of the Maikop Infantry Division had fled from a training ground in the Rostov Region fearing likely redeployment to Ukraine, which act gave rise to criminal proceedings against them as alleged deserters.

From the angle of the RF Media Law, reposting a story from a website in the public domain, with due reference to the source, does not constitute a law violation; therefore, Zakubanye Chief Editor Vladimir Korotayev complained about the unlawful police action to Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, who was visiting the Adygei Republic at the time. Fedotov, in his turn, turned to the republic’s prosecutor’s office for clarifications, and was told that the newspaper issue had been “not arrested” but “suspended until all the circumstances have been cleared up,” Korotayev told the GDF.

A month after the suspension, on 20 August, the city court in Maikop reviewed an appeal that Zakubanye, a newspaper distributed by subscription and through a network of retail vendors, filed against the arrest of its print run. The newspaper’s representative Nina Konovalova, chairwoman of the Slav Union of Adygei, said during the hearings that there was no need for seizing the entire print run: even if police had received a complaint from the printing house, they should have taken a few copies for expert examination in order to decide whether to stop the rest of the print run, which is still under arrest. The measure coerced the newspaper management into involuntarily breaking their contractual obligations before the subscribers, and led to retail revenue going into the red; Zakubanye still continues to suffer non-material – reputational – damages, she said.

The court found the print run arrest unlawful and satisfied the newspaper’s claim in full. Until the decision enters into force in ten days’ time, the print run will remain under arrest.

Zakubanye editor and journalists are seriously concerned about the printing house and police’s going well beyond the established legal framework, which Korotayev sees as an encroachment upon freedom of expression and an attempt to censor his independent newspaper which expresses views that are not always in line with the regional administration’s policies.

“Fortunately for us, Mikhail Fedotov, one of the co-authors of Russia’s Media Law, happened to be around this time to see how that remarkable law works locally,” the editor told the GDF. “Yet the Human Rights Committee members went back [to Moscow], and we stayed all on our own. Changing the printing house is impossible because it’s the only one in the republic, and with the meagre budget we have, ordering printing services in Krasnodar is not possible, either.”

Court in Perm reaffirms reporters’ right to attend open hearings

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

“I won’t say hi to the press,” defence lawyer Mikhail Postanogov said in response to reporters’ greetings during the 21 August sitting of the Leninsky district court in Perm, where an Investigative Committee request was being heard for extending the term of arrest for Berezniki City Duma Deputy Speaker Andrei Musikhin, charged with posing as an intermediary in a bribery scheme intended to bring Vitaly Makarikhin, deputy head of the Perm Region Tax Department (PRTD) 200,000 dollars in illegal earnings.

According to investigators, the money was offered in reward for cancelling the findings of a PRTD inspection of compressor-manufacturing company ZAO Iskra-Avigaz that resulted in 381.3 million roubles imposed in arrears, penalties and fines on the company. MP Musikhin, who at one time was head of Relations with the Government at Berezniki-based PAO Uralkaliy, spent nearly two weeks negotiating with Makarikhin. The money, an equivalent of 10.7 roubles, changed hands in Makarikhin’s car in downtown Perm on 22 June. Prior to that, the PRTD official had reported the would-be deal to the FSB, whose operatives were secretly videoing the MP’s actions. The Investigative Committee started criminal proceedings against Musikhin, 40, on 25 June, detaining him on the same day. On 26 June, the suspect was officially placed under arrest, and legal charges were advanced against him one day later.

Defence lawyer Postanogov asked the Perm Region Court to review his client’s protest against his arrest behind closed doors. “Some implicated persons remain unidentified. The case is handled by FSB operatives, whose work may be endangered. I request asking the press out of the courtroom,” he said.

Regional prosecutor’s office representative Sergei Likanov, however, reminded the lawyer that the trial had been officially announced as an open one on the regional court’s website. “I think reporters should be allowed to stay and hear the ruling,” he said.

Judge Dmitry Otinov decided against shutting the door to the press. “The investigators have not presented any documents requiring closed hearings,” he said explaining his decision.

The openness of court hearings is regulated by Article 241 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure, which apparently is not known to provincial lawyer Postanogov. He did not cite any law provision to substantiate his request for the press to be asked out.


Local press barred from newly-established Prison History Museum in Grodno

The Interior Ministry (MVD) and state-controlled media lately have been actively promoting the opening of a Prison History Museum in Grodno. However, admission to the opening ceremony has been restricted.

Interior Minister Shunevich in person will come to attend the ceremony, so the tightened-security regime bars the local press from the event; only a couple of state media reporters will be admitted.

Also, the MVD has announced that the new museum is a closed intra-ministerial facility, and an ordinary tourist or historian will find it difficult to get inside; admission will be at the show of pre-approved applications from organisations.

Belarus’ sole museum of prison history is opening in one of the administrative buildings of the Grodno prison. Exhibits include artefacts from the comparatively recent past – prisoners’ personal effects, documents and decorations of prison wards, and photos of celebrity prisoners, such as clairvoyant Wolf Messing, revolutionary Felix Dzerzhinsky, painter Napoleon Orda, and others.

[Belorusskiy Partizan report, 20 August]


Blogger claims 400,000 roubles from news web portal for “unauthorised” reposting of kitten’s photo

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Prominent Moscow-based blogger Ilya Varlamov has maintained mixed relations with the city of Omsk. The local Internet community three years ago nominated him for the city mayor, but he failed to collect the required number of signatures.

Nor have he and his team, which includes a number of other local web celebrities, such as Artemy Lebedev and Maksim Katz, succeeded so far in implementing any of the projects they have proposed – specifically, extending the existing tram network (instead of the Omsk metro which has been under construction for more than 30 years, consuming billions of roubles, but still remains unfinished).

After a chain of setbacks, Varlamov seems to be willing to return at least part of the money he has spent to no avail. Four months ago, he managed to benefit from the sale in a Twitter auction of a kitten he named Omsk. The closing price was not announced, but it is known for certain that it was many times over an average Omsk resident’s monthly earnings: a mayoral official’s offer of 185,000 roubles for the kitten was not the last one. Presumably, the auction proceeds will go to finance “municipal projects”.

A few days ago, Varlamov lodged with the regional arbitration court a legal claim against the OmskInform news website owner who reposted a photo of Omsk the kitten from the plaintiff’s website without his consent. The photo caption read: “Blogger Varlamov Names His Kitten Omsk”. The animal’s former owner claims 400,000 roubles in compensation from the news portal.

Artemy Lebedev, Varlamov’s comrade-in-arms, earlier filed a similar (500,000-rouble) claim against OmskInform for a picture of a road accident reposted from his site without authorisation. A court of law satisfied his claim partially, awarding him 13,500 roubles for a photo that even by local criteria, not to mention Moscow’s, was nothing out of the ordinary (see digest 690).

Varlamov’s claim seems seriously overestimated, observers say. It is up to the court now to decide how well-grounded it is.


2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” announced

The jury of the 2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” starts accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2014 and October 15, 2015 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (Journalists’ Union of Russia entrance), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

For further details, please call: (+7 495) 637 4947.

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