Дайджест
11 Февраля 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 464


TOPIC OF THE WEEK
Peter Vince case

RUSSIA
1. Moscow. Charges against A. Stenin lifted: are we satisfied? Continued from Digest 462
2. Republic of Karelia. Newspaper publication helps undo injustice
3. Republic of Karelia. Parliamentarian files legal claim to prove his respect for party discipline
4. Rostov Region. Prosecutor’s office keeps watchful eye on district newspapers
5. Maritime Territory. Non-delivery of newspapers makes censorship redundant
6. St. Petersburg. Snitching message sent to governor
7. Voronezh Region. Legal claim satisfied by arbitration court bewilders lawyers

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in January 2010

OUR PUBLICATIONS
1. Why write a letter to President then?
2. Information wars continue in Saratov
3. “Killer media”, “black” PR practices and United Russia Party




TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Peter Vince case

The Moscow City Court has upheld the decision of the Dorogomilovo District Court which earlier sanctioned the arrest of Peter Vince, a U.S. businessman, the founder of the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed” and a member of its Jury panel.

Criminal proceedings against P. Vince were instituted over a year ago on tax evasion charges, after repeated searches of his office – both with and without the use of force against staffers (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/75 ). His case gives rise to questions. Specifically, he is accused of personally writing, signing and submitting to the tax collectors a number of papers with a view to shirking tax payment – and this despite the documentary evidence that at the said dates he was abroad and could not possibly write or sign any documents at all in Russia.

Besides, last October the same Dorogomilovo Court turned down the first petition to take P. Vince into custody, pointing out that “the proceedings were repeatedly suspended by the investigator in view of no suspect identified” and that “the investigators and prosecutor have failed to present proofs of P. Vince’s continuing to engage in criminal activities”. That decision was challenged before the higher-standing city court which returned the case for review, and it was only the second plea for his arrest that was finally satisfied by the district court.

On February 3, the city court turned down the defense lawyer’s appeal against the primary court’s decision, although the question of arrest, it would seem, should have been dropped automatically after the enactment of legislative amendments mitigating the sanctions for the category of crime Vince is accused of.
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It is possible that the prosecutors’ insistence should be attributed to their care for Russia’s national interests. But in that event, they may as well have required the businessman to pay his tax arrears in full. So other interests are likely to have been involved. According to unofficial sources, Vince’s opponents may have been insulted by Peter’s refusal to pay for “roofing” and, primarily, for his making public their attempt to press on him in 2007.

Vince’s defense lawyer Vera Baranova has told the Grani.ru news agency that they intend to challenge the city court decision as unlawful, particularly considering several procedural infractions committed by the court.
 
Meanwhile, it has become known that Timothy Buckley, General Consul of the U.S. Embassy in Latvia where P. Vince currently lives, has called him on the phone to express concern about his future.

So the case is not closed and the next, 10th, annual Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed” is due to be held towards the year’s end, as usual (see http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/699), despite the really alarming situation around its Jury members. One of them, Anna Politkovskaya (who won the Award in 2002 and was on the Jury panel since 2003) was shot and killed at the entrance to her apartment house three years ago. Another one, Mikhail Afanasyev (who won the Award in 2004 and has been a panelist since 2005), has suffered two violent attacks and has been the subject of a dozen criminal cases, with all the charges finally lifted. A third, Yuri Samodurov (a Jury member since 2000) is on trial for organizing an art exhibition that so much hurt the feelings of some viewers that they decided to sue. A fourth one, Peter Vince, is now being accused of tax evasion. It seems the list of the Jury panelists had better be made secret to save them this kind of problems…




RUSSIA

1. Moscow. Charges against A. Stenin lifted: are we satisfied? Continued from Digest 462


By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The Tverskoy District Court has canceled the decision of a justice of the peace who found RIA Novosti photo correspondent Andrei Stenin guilty of participation in an unauthorized rally and sentenced him to a fine of RUR 500.

As we have reported, A. Stenin was detained by the police on December 12, 2009, while covering a protest action in Moscow’s Staraya Square. Officers at the police station ignored his journalistic ID, his explanations and the fact of his having professional photo equipment on him, and submitted his case to court as that of an alleged protest action participant. The judge’s fine-charging decision was challenged before a higher-standing judicial authority, with the heads of a number of federal media sending Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev an open letter urging him to protect fellow journalists and other Russian citizens from police arbitrariness (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/696#top).
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As a result, the fine was canceled and the case was closed in view of no elements of administrative offense in Stenin’s actions. The Tverskoy Court cites new evidence obtained from the police officers who detained the journalist: one of them has recanted his testimony given to the justice of the peace, claiming instead that Stenin “was detained by mistake, as one looking like another man who had taken part in the picketing action”.

“We are satisfied to see the conflict resolved within the legally established framework,” Mikhail Safronov, RIA Novosti deputy general director and head of the news agency’s legal department, commented.

In the view of GDF president Alexei Simonov, the canceling of the convictive decision passed in respect of Stenin “is not directly related to the administration of justice” and should be attributed to the broad public repercussions the case “unexpectedly” caused. “In 2007, we had about 140 cases of that kind, in 2008 – 75, and in 2009 – over 60. And it was not until a RIA Novosti photo reporter got implicated that the public had grown mature enough to get the head managers of all the leading media to sign an appeal to the Interior Minister,” A. Simonov said speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio. “Too many people signed that appeal for the Tverskoy Court to stand its ground. I do not mean the letter impacted the judicial decision directly – the whole thing just came as a big surprise to everyone who had somehow or other steered that court’s performance.” The way Simonov sees it, the journalist’s acquittal does not mean the press freedom situation in Russia will be improving. “Where convictive sentences of this kind are decisively repulsed, law courts will be returning to civilized methods of conflict settlement; with zero public reaction, they are likely to continue to trample on journalists’ dignity,” A. Simonov summed up.
 


2. Republic of Karelia. Newspaper publication helps undo injustice

By Anatoly Tsygankov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District
 
After a police officer trying to get into an already closed trade pavilion shoved the 20-year-old salesgirl back against the iron door so hard that she received a spinal trauma, she twice filed complaints in package with medical conclusions and eyewitnesses’ testimony, but the police stubbornly refused to institute criminal proceedings against their colleague. Then the victim’s relatives turned for help to the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Karelii asking to make the incident known to the public.

A reporter assigned to check the facts went to talk to prosecutor’s office investigators and the police. As soon as it became clear the scandal was about to spill over, proceedings were instantly launched under Article 286 of the RF Criminal Code on charges of action in excess of one’s official authority. After the city court of Petrozavodsk confirmed the fact of his criminal behavior, the police captain was discharged. He then admitted his guilt, apologized to the salesgirl and offered to bear the costs of her medical treatment. The court sentenced him to a suspended three-year term of imprisonment without deciding, though, whether or not the fired captain would be allowed to return to his police service in the future.


3. Republic of Karelia. Parliamentarian files legal claim to prove his respect for party discipline

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

Devletkhan Alikhanov, a member of Karelia’s parliament, has sued the news agency KarelInform for its publishing I. Bykov’s article titled “Alikhanov Again Fails to Get Senator’s Seat” which the plaintiff claims to be libelous and ruining his reputation.

In a bid to whitewash himself D. Alikhanov says he has never been in opposition to the United Russia Party (which he joined last summer) and never gone against the party’s policy, as suggested by the story’s author. Nor has he ever voiced his attitude towards the monetary rewards paid to Petrozavodsk Council deputies, or pushed any bill to procure “astronomic salaries for Chairman Fokin and five other deputies”. It may well be noted here that the publication was based on a story about plans to raise salaries for six Council members working on a permanent basis that had triggered heated public debates, including within the United Russia Party itself. Local URP members recommended that their faction not only refrain from offering any pay rises to parliamentarians but rather consider cutting down the paid positions to only two – those of Council chairman and his deputy.

In his legal claim D. Alikhanov says he has never breached any norms established by the URP Charter (contrary to what the article’s author asserts); therefore he wants a refutation and RUR 300,000 in moral damage compensation from the defendant.


4. Rostov Region. Prosecutor’s office keeps watchful eye on district newspapers

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

On March 14, all-Russia election day, administration heads and deputies will be elected in 43 cities and districts across Rostov Region. As experts and human rights activists have repeatedly noted, Russian legislation imposes considerable restrictions on media rights as regards coverage of both the election campaign and the voting process. Actually, the federal and local laws “On the Basic Guarantees of Electors’ Rights” infringe the electors’ right to be informed.

Canvassing had not yet begun when the media already received the first warnings and legal claims: any media report can be interpreted differently – as information about a candidate or as a call to vote for a particular candidate. The regional election committee and the prosecutor’s office of Tatsinsky District, for example, warned the newspaper Donskoy Courier for starting to canvass for one of the candidates “before time”.

In Zavetinsky District, the prosecutor’s office saw as a breach of law the newspaper Voskhod’s report about a deputy head intending to run for the head of district administration. The report said the candidate was supported by a number of public organizations, among them the Youth Committee, the Presidium of the District Council of War and Labor Veterans and the District Women’s Council. It also praised the candidate for his good business qualities, which, in the view of the prosecutor’s office, “creates a bias in favor of one candidate for the head of Zavetinsky District administration” – a breach of the “Law on the Basic Guarantees of RF Citizens’ Franchise and Right to Participate in Referendums” that gave rise to proceedings under Article 5.5.1 of the RF Administrative Code establishing the rules of preparations for, and the holding of, elections. A justice of the peace, at the representation of the prosecutor’s office, sentenced the editor to a fine of RUR 1,000. But, most importantly, all the other media got the message: you better refrain from writing anything at all about elections than expose yourselves to the risk of running into trouble.



5. Maritime Territory. Non-delivery of newspapers makes censorship redundant

By Anna Selezneva,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

To keep the readers from getting to know information that the authorities do not want them to know, it is not necessary to impose official censorship – the ordinary postal service will help achieve the desired goal.

For example, the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV) publishes an article about a prominent public figure – Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkaryov. Titled “Pushkaryov’s Youth”, the article explores the man’s road to power, mentioning a strange episode in his otherwise lucky and successful past – the undisclosed murder of his first employer and companion, a Korean citizen.

That story comes up time and again in different Vladivostok-based media (the newspaper Yezhednevniye Novosti, Stalker television show, etc.), giving rise to legal claims lodged on libel charges and sometimes to moral damage compensation charged and paid. Pushkaryov being the de facto owner of the Spassk cement plant turned the city mayor, this kind of information – of considerable interest to all Spassk residents, including workers of his plant – is deemed to be “redundant” and “undesirable”, even if Pushkaryov files yet another legal claim and wins it. The most important thing is to prevent such information from leaking to the public in the first place.

That is easy to do, as it turns out. The AV issue (No. 49, 2009) featuring Anastasia Popova’s article about I. Pushkaryov never reached the readers in Spassk: the postal service was simply told not to deliver that number to subscribers, as one local reader reported to the AV editor. Instead, they tossed some “yellow” newspaper into people’s mailboxes – and even that a few days afterwards. Playing little tricks like that, the authorities may not bother about censorship anymore.



6. St. Petersburg. Snitching message sent to governor

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

Trade union members and veteran workers of the state unitary enterprise ElectroTrans have sent St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko an open letter blaming the media for “smearing” their beloved company.

“We would like everyone to know that the numerous accusations carried by the media are nothing but conjectures, guesswork and proofless facts – actually, mere words,” the letter’s authors say. While charging the journalists with “extremism”, they do not, however, mention a single name of a media outlet or a reporter “undermining the plant’s reputation”. Thus the claims they lay to the journalists and “some public organizations” hang poised in midair, and the very genre of the letter allegedly written by ordinary workers and veterans brings back the gloomy memories of snitching reports about “saboteurs” and “enemies of the nation” written in Soviet times…

ElectroTrans press secretary Tatyana Bryndina, speaking to the GDF correspondent, refuted the rumors about the appeal to the governor having been initiated by her company management. At the same time, she confirmed that the letter had been written in response to the growing number of critical publications about the organization in charge of the electric transport (trams and trolleybuses) in St. Petersburg.

By the time this Digest was released, the city administration’s Transport Committee had not yet replied to the Glasnost Defense Foundation’s inquiry, nor indicated whether or not the authors’ position was consistent with the official stand of the executive authorities, or what measures the Committee intended to take in connection with the appeal.

The GDF will follow the developments closely.



7. Voronezh Region. Legal claim satisfied by arbitration court bewilders lawyers

By Svetlana Kuzevanova,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Hearings are over in the Voronezh Region Arbitration Court of a legal claim lodged about six months ago by the chicken meat producing company LiskoBroiler against the Business Information Agency ABIREG in the wake of a series of “libelous” and “reputation-ruining” reports about low-quality meat supplies to one of the largest trade networks in Voronezh.

In the course of hearings, in a bid to confirm the damage done to its reputation by the critical reports, the plaintiff presented a letter from the said trade network about its refusal to purchase several consignments of “blue chicken meat” from LiskoBroiler, and thereby acknowledged the fact of a local trading company breaking off its relations with the plaintiff’s organization and choosing an alternative supplier from the neighboring region of Oryol. In spite of what would seem to be exhaustive and indisputable proofs of the accuracy of the ABIREG reports, the court satisfied LiskoBroiler’s claim and required the agency to publish a refutation and pay the plaintiff RUR 100,000 in reputation damage compensation. The defendant intends to challenge that decision in a court of appeals.

Significantly enough, the arbitration court in Voronezh has developed its own, “unique”, methodology of awarding compensation on reputation damage claims: each time such a claim is satisfied, the compensation amount is invariably the same – RUR 100,000, regardless of the volume or complexity of work, the plaintiff/defendant position, etc. The language of those decisions is, too, always the same, as if the judges copy the justification statement from one another word for word. Defense lawyers specializing in this category of judicial cases say they are in a state of bewilderment.




GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in January 2010

Attacks on journalists – 1 (Albert Ilyin, journalist, GTRK “Chuvashia”, Cheboksary).

Attacks on media offices – 2 (BAS TV network, Kaliningrad Region; newspaper Saratovskiye Vesti, Saratov).

Instances of censorship – 1 (UralDaily.ru news agency, Chelyabinsk).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 3 (Galina Yablokova, founder, newspaper Ivanovo-Press, Alexei Yablokov, journalist, same paper, and Valery Smetanin, editor-in-chief, Ivanovo-Press Publishers’, all from Ivanovo).

Unlawful sacking of editor/journalist – 1 (Oleg Borisenko, editor-in-chief, newspaper Krasnokamskaya Zvezda, Perm Territory).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 6 (Ruslan Alibekov, photo correspondent, newspaper Chernovik, Makhachkala, twice; Galina Yablokova, founder, newspaper Ivanovo-Press, Alexei Yablokov, journalist, same paper, and Valery Smetanin, editor-in-chief, Ivanovo-Press Publishers’, all from Ivanovo; crew of reporters for GTRK “Kaliningrad”, Kaliningrad Region).

Legal claims against journalists and media, registered – 19, worth a total of RUR 3,767,500.

Earlier claims against journalists and media, considered – 11, satisfied – 4, total amount of moral damage compensation charged – RUR 25,500.

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 21.

Threats against journalists and media – 6 (Andrei Koretsky, editor-in-chief, UralDaily.ru news agency, Chelyabinsk, twice; Viktor Korb, freelance journalist, Omsk; Tatyana Sedykh, editor-in-chief, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Khabarobsk Territory; staffers of newspaper Zlatoustovsky Rabochiy, Chelyabinsk Region; Alexander Podrabinek, Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Moscow).

Disruption of TV/radio broadcasts – 1 (Amur-TV network, Chelyabinsk Region).

Closure of media outlets – 1 (newspaper Rylsky Vestnik, Kursk Region).

Confiscation, purchase or arrest of print run – 2 (newspaper Kachkanarsky Chetverg, Sverdlovsk Region; newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti, Maritime Territory).

Interference with web publications – 4 (website Ingushetiaru.org»; Novaya Gazeta website - twice; website of Press Distributors’ Association).

Release of duplicate, i.e. rival, newspapers – 2 (newspaper Pravda Khakassii, Khakassia; newspaper Orlovskaya Iskra, Oryol).

Seizure of/damage to photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 1 (newspaper Ivanovo-Press, Ivanovo).

Administrative pressure (off-the-schedule sanitary, fire, tax and other inspections) – 1 (newspaper Kotovsky Vestnik, Volgograd Region).

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 24.

***

Last week, the Glasnost Defense Foundation was referred to at least 25 times in the Internet, including at:

http://www.interfax.ru/society/news.asp?id=122199&sw=%E2%E8%ED%F1&bd=4&bm=1&by=2010&ed=4&em=2&ey=2010&secid=0&mp=0&p=1
http://www.interfax.ru/society/txt.asp?id=121841&sw=%E2%E8%ED%F1&bd=4&bm=1&by=2010&ed=4&em=2&ey=2010&secid=0&mp=0&p=1
http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1314390&NodesID=6
http://www.gzt.ru/topnews/politics/-uchreditelj-premii-saharova-ischet-zaschity-u-/286393.html
http://www.civitas.ru/news.php?code=8516
http://www.interfax.ru/society/news.asp?id=121765
http://www.rbcdaily.ru/2010/02/03/media/456361
http://barentspress.org/ru/default.asp?lesmer=1217
http://ruj.ru/2010/100201_2.htm
http://www.dailycomm.ru/m/7378/
http://irk.aif.ru/society/news/17015
http://www.lenizdat.ru/a0/ru/pm1/c-1085679-0.html#1
http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/164995/
http://www.grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.174295.html
http://www.rabkor.ru/debate/5011.html
http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?m=2&y=2010&lang=rus&nid=1619
http://www.s-pravdoy.ru/smiabout/3866-q-q-.html
http://echo.msk.ru/news/654115-echo.html
http://www.rg.ru/2010/02/05/stepin.html
http://www1.voanews.com/russian/news/human-rights/Wins-case_2010_02_03-83566007.html?commentSubmitted=y&field=




OUR PUBLICATIONS

1. Why write a letter to President then?


By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Last Friday, two serious-looking young men, briefcases in hand, visited our apartment block telling the chairperson of our tenants’ partnership they urgently needed to see me.

We missed each other by just a few minutes. “You had visitors,” the chairlady told me. – “Who? The district police inspector?” I guessed. - “No,” she replied, “I know him personally.” Each of my neighbors knows him personally: whenever I happen to be out, he demands that they sign a paper certifying he did come but Ms. Lebedeva was not at home. He has been visiting me for several years now – since the time I published a series of stories about a police general who had got drunk and fired a shot from a flare pistol at an innocent woman. His lawyer filed a dozen complaints with the prosecutor’s office demanding that they hold me liable for “a priori false reporting” – but they resolutely refused to open a criminal case. The general was then found guilty and sanctioned, but the inspector has kept coming to my place ever since demanding that I sign some written explanations.

This time, it was not the district inspector, indeed. Stuck into my keyhole was a note saying I had to call the regional police department’s investigations unit in connection with “a complaint”. I had not filed any complaints with them but I nevertheless called. To my utter bewilderment, they told me they wanted me to explain the reasons for my writing a letter to the President. I could not figure out what the Rostov police had to do with that: I had sent the President an e-mail message urging him to take a closer look at the case of Peter Vince, the founder and a Jury member of the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed”. Peter Vince is under prosecution – but in Moscow, not in Rostov!

“They forwarded your message to us, and you must come to the Investigations Committee for a talk,” a young investigator snapped at me. He must have received the relevant instructions from his superiors.

In the evening, I told my family about the uninvited visitors. “Does that mean the President did not read your letter?” my daughter, a high school student, wondered. “Then why write to him at all?”

I laughed at her childish naivety. “What’s so funny about it?” she protested. “I can’t understand: why write to the President at all then?”

Maybe the President will read my message if it is posted on the Glasnost Defense Foundation website?

GDF editor’s comment: Maybe he will. The message is available at http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/702
 

2. Information wars continue in Saratov

Tensions have been growing again in the political and media communities in Saratov. Judging by everything, this year may see even more serious confrontations than last year’s. The lull ended on February 2, with Judge Oleg Ryabikhin of the Zavodskoy District Court of Saratov passing a decision on a legal claim lodged by the regional branch of the United Russia Party (URP) against Kommersant Publishers’, Kommersant Daily’s local correspondent Tatyana Nikitina and the former minister of the Public Relations and Ethnic Policy Committee Ivan Bryantsev. The litigation started several months ago, in the wake of T. Nikitina’s publication “United Russia Implicated in Anti-Semitic Affair”. URP wanted its reputation to be protected, a total of RUR 1,000,000 in moral damage compensation to be paid to it by Bryantsev and Nikitina, and a refutation to be published by Kommersant. In the course of hearings, the claim against I. Bryntsev was withdrawn.

The court ruled for T. Nikitina to pay the regional URP branch RUR 20,000 in moral damage compensation, plus RUR 6,000 to cover the judicial costs, and for Kommersant to publish a refutation. The defendants intend to challenge the decision before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Many local journalists are puzzled and even shocked by the court’s ruling that they believe must have been passed under pressure from the regional URP leaders who seem eager to sue anyone attempting to publish a negative, the less so critical, remark about United Russia. As a kind of reaction to the administrative pressure on the media beyond URP control, a new public and political newspaper, Rezonans, has been instituted by the prominent journalist Vadim Rogozhin, former head of the newspaper Vzglyad and news agency Vzglyad-Info and current editor of the web newspaper Chetvertaya Vlast. The co-founders are the Press House and the regional branch of the RF Journalists’ Union.

As we have reported, after a violent attack on him near the entrance to his apartment block on March 5, 2009, V. Rogozhin spent a long time in hospital in a critical condition. Police promises to track down the perpetrators soon have remained unfulfilled. Reporting in January on progress in the investigation of the most appalling crimes in 2009, including the assault on Rogozhin, Maj.-Gen. Valery Piyavin, chief of the regional police department’s investigations division, once again pledged to “complete the investigation shortly. The victims and accused persons are currently reading the case files which will soon be submitted to court.” But, as usual, “the persons who ordered the attack have not been identified, but we have plenty of evidence to prove the guilt of the accused,” the general said.

Meanwhile, tensions within the media sector in Saratov have climbed so high that many prominent media workers, frustrated by the criminals’ impunity, do not rule out that more attacks on journalists may follow.


3. “Killer media”, “black” PR practices and United Russia Party

By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

At a February 4 news conference in Saratov that exploded like a bomb, four PR specialists including two prominent Saratov-based journalists, Sergey Pochechuyev and Igor Osovin, described their engagement in “black” PR practices on orders from Nikolai Pankov, a State Duma deputy and the right-hand assistant to United Russia Party secretary Vyacheslav Volodin. The news conference’s official goal was to announce the release of Pochechuyev and Osovin’s book of memoirs, “Black PR for White Bear”, scheduled by one of the Moscow publishing houses for the near future. As a spicy detail, the authors said that since July 2007, by agreement with N. Pankov, they had worked under the leadership of Eduard Abrosimov, a PR expert and the shadow ideologist of the regional URP branch, who had earlier served a six-month term of imprisonment for publishing libel in respect of Vyacheslav Volodin (sic!).

The authors of the would-be book said: “Actually, we were members of a special task force set up by Nikolai Pankov to destroy the good names and reputation of anyone who happened to be a personal enemy of Saratov URP leader Vyacheslav Volodin.” Dissemination of “killing” information had nothing at all to do with the interests of the party as such, the less so with the interests of Saratov Region or its residents. Among the targets set before the “killers” by their curators were Pavel Ipatov, the regional governor, and Alexander Galkin, chairman of the regional court. According to S. Pochechuyev, that resulted in the fact that, “after Alexander Galkin’s resignation, United Russia started winning lawsuits in which it had a very precarious legal position. A vivid example is the latest URP victory over the Kommersant journalists and common sense in the Zavodskoy District court.” [See the previous Digest story].

The two journalists specified the astronomic sums of money the regional PR specialists and their bosses had spent on financing the “information massacre”, i.e., discrediting persons who were out of favor with the regional URP branch and its leaders – sums capable of shocking any ordinary citizen living on the “average” salary. They backed their statements with showing justifying documents (duty allocation charts, video sequences, etc.). All in all, besides Saratov, the “special task force unit” covered with “black” PR practices as many as 10 constituencies in rural areas. The conference organizers made no secret of their goal: “For the first time ever, you will hear some figures that in a normal, civilized society usually lead to the end of political careers – in this case, the careers of such politicians as Volodin and Pankov.” In conclusion, Sergey Pochechuyev read out a list of Saratov-based politicians and journalists at whom they had looked through the sight of “black PR guns” before pulling the trigger without a moment’s hesitation.

On the list were the names of 23 government officials, including the governor, the late Duma deputy Vladimir Churikov (the authors of the sensational book take on part of the blame for his sudden death of a heart attack), and nine fellow journalists. The full transcript of the news conference is posted on the organizers’ website at: www.conspirology.org.

On the following day, a “response” news conference by the above-mentioned URP “ideologists” Eduard Abrosimov and Roman Chuichenko was held, at which they attempted to portray the holders of the “repentance” conference as odd and even mentally deranged persons. They also suggested that Pochechuyev and Osovin should look out for potential use of force against them. Abrosimov tried to deny his involvement with United Russia but was unmasked by the prominent journalist Alexander Krutov. The event climaxed in the journalist and human rights activist Grigory Akhtyrko’s flinging a pack of condoms at Abrosimov, who easily warded it off, though, with the dexterity of a skilled tennis player.

Pankov’s reaction was fast, too: he announced his intention to sue. The news about the incident almost instantly spilled over beyond the region’s borders. Judging by preliminary reports, we are in for a major political scandal over this very specific use of the media by United Russia.




This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), http://www.gdf.ru.

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Efremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.


We would appreciate reference to our organization in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru
To be crossed out from the Digest list of subscribers, please e-mail a note to 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