Words are worse than murder: who and why are imprisoned for a long time in Russia today

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Words are worse than murder: who and why are imprisoned for a long time in Russia today
Words are worse than murder: who and why are imprisoned for a long time in Russia today
19 August, 13:11Photo: 1MI
We hear less and less about harsh sentences for murderers, rapists and repeat offenders.

Victoria Pavlova

The Russian court is the most humane court in the world. Such an impression may arise after reading the latest news. The head of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Lebedev, said that the number of arrests over the past 20 years has decreased by 4 times. And the Ministry of Justice proposed to ban the arrests of entrepreneurs for economic crimes of minor gravity and reduce the time for preliminary investigation of economic crimes against entrepreneurs. But in Russia, far from all businessmen, and the chances of being behind bars are growing every day. We understand for what acts in the country today people face the most severe punishment.

Journalist and scientist - the first candidates for inmates

The longest terms (up to 20 years, if the totality of crimes is not considered), according to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, rely on murder, rape of minors, causing grievous bodily harm. This is de jure, but de facto Russian justice now seems to have different views on the gravity of the crime committed. The most notorious cases of this summer are a series of detentions of journalists and scientists. It began with the fact that Dmitry Kolker, head of the Laboratory of Quantum Optical Technologies at Novosibirsk State University, was arrested and sent to a pre-trial detention center (he was in the hospital with stage 4 cancer, he died a few days after being transferred to the pre-trial detention center), the chief researcher of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences 75-year-old Anatoly Maslov and director of ITAM of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Anatoly Shiplyuk. In this case, searches were carried out even at the homes of those who are involved in the case as a witness.

Later, the security forces switched to journalists. Employees of Narodnye Novosti and administrators of the telegram channel Vladislav Malushenko , Aleksey Slobodenyuk and Yevgeny Moskvin were detained in early August. A few days later they were followed by media technologist Olga Arkharova, PR specialist Inna Churilova and journalist Alexandra Bayazitova (she faces up to 15 years in prison). Moskovsky Komsomolets investigative journalist Lev Speransky also had to go to interrogations.

There are also many similar cases in the regions. Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Shukayeva was recently arrested in Yekaterinburg for reposting the five-year-old film “He is not Dimon to you”. And the Sovetsky District Court of Orel sent site administrator Artyom Prokhorov and journalist Vladimir Panfilov to jail, suspected of extorting 100 thousand rubles from businessman Vladimir Tilman. Journalist Denis Starostin was detained in Kaluga after his colleague Timofei Radzikhovsky left an unflattering comment under Dmitry Medvedev's VK post. Seven journalists were recently searched in Kazan on charges of justifying terrorism and insulting a government official. Very gentle representatives of the authorities were offended by Iskander Yasaveyev and Marina Yudkevich from Idel.Realii (recognized as a foreign agent), an employee of the Tatpolit portal and four freelance journalists who collaborate with Radio Liberty (recognized as a foreign agent) and the publication Novaya Gazeta. Europe". You can even go to jail by turning on a Ukrainian song commissioned by visitors in a cafe.

While those accused of non-violent crimes are behind bars in a pre-trial detention center (due to the strict regime and difficult conditions, a day in a pre-trial detention center is equivalent to 1.5 days in a general regime colony), the “Skopin maniac” Viktor Mokhov was sent under house arrest in the case of concealing a murder ( who served 17 years for the kidnapping of two underage girls, whom he kept in the basement for 4 years, beat, raped and tortured, the criminal helped a neighbor hide the body of his victim). In June last year, there was another case in the Sverdlovsk region - a recidivist who twice served 8 years for robbery, rape, possession of drugs and weapons confessed to the murder of a girl. During the investigation into the case of violent acts of a sexual nature against a minor, they did not send him to a pre-trial detention center, limiting himself to house arrest. He ran away from home, lived in the forest, met a tourist from Perm and killed her. And the billionaire and ex-deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Kamchatka Territory Igor Redkin received only 9 months in prison for the unintentional murder of a local resident.

The priorities of the security forces have clearly shifted this summer. Maniacs and murderers walk free, while dissenting journalists and scientists live and die behind bars. The most terrible crimes according to the criminal code and the most terrible crimes according to the ideas of the security forces are completely different things.

Send to jail...just in case

Journalist and human rights activist Yeva Merkacheva explains that the choice of a measure of restraint (they are sent to a pre-trial detention center so that the suspect does not run away and put pressure on the investigation) is often poorly consistent with reality.

- The risk that the suspect will run away becomes minimal if a person does not have a passport, usually - this is a standard procedure - the passport is immediately seized by the investigation, there is no real estate and generally no means to cross the border. But even in this case, escaping somewhere in today's conditions is very difficult. The escape of those accused of non-violent crimes is the rarest case. If you look at the statistics, for one of the last years, it seems that this was one of 5 cases across the country. Very little. To put pressure on the investigation - I don’t even remember such cases. Moreover, there was a sad and funny story when the defendant (albeit in violent crimes) was charged with allegedly exerting pressure on the course of the investigation, on the victims, that a threat was allegedly sent from his phone. It turned out that all these threats were sent by intelligence officers. The phone was confiscated from him, and on his behalf, using his photo, they sent out, and then tried to file it, that he allegedly did it. But they proved that he could not do it even physically (by the way, he was then already under arrest). So there are no risks for the investigation, except for one thing - that a person will be a little scared, will not be in a state of panic and severe stress. The investigation has only one risk - that if a person is not in a pre-trial detention center, they will not be able to put pressure on him.

Yeva Merkacheva also explains that arrest today is a tool for conducting an investigation. So it is easier for the security forces:

- Our investigating authorities cannot work in other ways than by putting pressure on the accused - they are not capable of simply collecting evidence, doing it culturally, so as not to violate anyone's rights. While the whole world is following the path of abandoning the form of harsh interrogation, for example, I talked with Norwegian police officers who are moving away from interrogation and moving on to the form of an investigative interview so as not to traumatize a person as much as possible. And they rely objectively on the evidence that is collected. And our investigation goes back to ancient times, when the only queen of evidence is the confession, as Vyshinsky spoke about. A little more, we will throw into the abyss - whoever survived, then he was innocent, who did not survive, he is guilty. They will probably act according to this principle, because they do not want or cannot work, collecting evidence.

Sending people to jail is easy, simple and convenient.

Judicial freemen

Bayazitova 's case drew a lot of attention to the issue of the need to keep suspected non-violent crimes in a pre-trial detention center and behind bars in the courtroom. State Duma deputy Yevgeny Popov , a member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) under the President of the Russian Federation Kirill Kabanov and the head of the HRC Valery Fadeev , chairman of the Federation Council committee on constitutional legislation Andrey Klishas spoke out against the detention in the pre-trial detention center against cells in the courtroom. Earlier, Vladimir Putin several times called for humanism in relation to people who have committed economic crimes, and the head of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Lebedev , asked judges not to neglect the possibility of mitigating preventive measures as recently as May 2022.

A certain manifestation of humanism was noticed by the chairman of the HRC Valery Fadeev : “According to the latest data from the Federal Penitentiary Service, recently the courts have begun to send citizens under house arrest more often: in the first three months of this year alone, there are more such cases than in the whole of 2021.” The leading lawyer of the Crime Victims Support Fund, Alexander Koshkin , also sees the humanization of legislation. True in a rather specific version:

- Our legislation has recently been greatly transformed in terms of the humanization of criminal punishment - this is being done in order to relieve prisons and pre-trial detention centers. But at the same time, our legislator clogs prisons and pre-trial detention centers with people who are not dangerous to society. Humanization is in general terms. For example, the amount of damage caused by fraud is increasing - it would seem that this is a rather serious article. There are also more serious crimes that are more harmful - they are humanized. But if we are talking about journalists who expressed their point of view, what's the point of putting these people in jail? This is unprofitable even from an economic point of view. There is a humanization of the Criminal Code of such a kind that the criminal code becomes more convenient for criminals than for victims. I think he is less protective of the victim and more concerned about the rights of the perpetrator. Legislation eases the responsibility of the offender, the Criminal Code becomes softer for them. And the victim, of course, becomes more difficult to achieve justice.

In any case, house arrest, which is becoming more popular under certain articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, is also imprisonment. But the court can still release a person on bail. Yeva Merkacheva points out that such a preventive measure is extremely unpopular in Russia:

- The feeling that all these appeals do not work, and the security forces now, as they say, rule the ball, the investigation controls all systems. I personally have this feeling, because I don't understand why, for example, they don't release me on bail. Not a single person was released on bail in Moscow last year! The same in the Moscow region. Although, it would seem that what the state loses - the state, on the contrary, gains. After all, if these people run away, the money will go to the budget. And all the same, everyone will be caught, there are no cases where they are not caught, with the exception of when a person fled abroad and asked for political asylum. People feel responsible when bail is paid for them. I have a huge number of stories when people could help their loved ones (sick children or parents, for example), being released on bail or under house arrest, but all this does not work. It seems that they began to release them under house arrest, but this is a very small figure, and under a written undertaking not to leave - also occasionally. As for the undertaking not to leave the place, this measure is chosen not by the court, but by the investigator - he could choose this measure as often as he wants. But he doesn't.

According to the expert of the Foundation for the Protection of the Rights of Prisoners Petr Kuryanov , under such articles as murder, it is not only easier to wait for a sentence at large, but there are more chances to get an acquittal than under non-violent articles.

- According to my observations, under Article 105 (murder) it is even easier to get an acquittal. Here we can come to conclusions - either this is due to negligence, or this is the result of a provocation by the actions of the victim himself, or it has not been proven at all that it was he who killed. I noticed a long time ago that under article 105 it is easier to get a short term or an acquittal than for a mass of other articles . The practice of applying the law by our courts, and now, in the absence of the jurisdiction of the European Court in the Russian Federation, to put it mildly, is very lame. Therefore, it is clear that before the court, as the suppression proceeds, the prosecutor comes in and makes it clear that this person should be imprisoned. In fact, if by design, circumstances are different everywhere. It is necessary to protect the accused as much as possible from possible contact with possible accomplices who are at large. Assuming that this is indeed a criminal and we really want to investigate all this in order to limit the possibility of collusion with other accomplices and so on. This is all in theory, and not in terms of arbitrariness, which has now flooded both the investigation and the courts. As far as I remember, for violent crimes more often they give such a measure of restraint as house arrest or a written undertaking not to leave - for murders, rapes - than for crimes of medium gravity, for crimes of a non-violent nature.

Alexander Koshkin refers to the statistics - they also show the heightened attention of the security forces to journalists:

- Based on open sources, the number of pre-investigation checks against journalists, I believe, has increased.

Yeva Merkacheva sees the reason for the increased cases of persecution of journalists in the new legislation and new articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation:

- What has changed in 2022 - the answer is obvious, because until this year we did not have an article about fakes. The OVD-info website (recognized as a foreign agent) contains information about criminal cases under this article, and in fact, almost all of them ended with the election of a harsh measure of restraint - detention. This is something that has never happened before, so 2022 has become indicative in this sense.

“They have already imprisoned everyone who could have been imprisoned”

It seems that in 2022, dissent and dissemination of unwanted information has become the worst crime. This fact confirms the holding of court hearings in a predominantly closed format, notes Petr Kuryanov:

- For example, in the case of Ovsyannikova, the court session was closed. And this trend of closing court sessions can easily and naturally spread to all courts in this country. And in other cities they will also argue - why do we need outsiders here, let's also close the courts in cases of discrediting the army. Can you imagine what this will lead to? closed courts.

So it’s not far from the NKVD judicial triples... Nuts are being tightened - in the “new normality” words are worse than a knife and a gun. So far, the people, in general, perceive this approach as normal. But how long will the tightening and total control of public opinion last? Yeva Merkacheva believes that sooner or later the security forces will still have to loosen their grip a little:

- I think that the practice of tougher punishment for non-violent crimes is still a temporary phenomenon. Sooner or later, the authorities will have to pay attention to how the people react to this. And the people now began to react very harshly to huge sentences for drugs. Because young boys and girls come across, students. Instead of actually fighting the distributors, with the drug mafia, which, of course, is covered by law enforcement agencies. It is thanks to them that drugs are brought into the country, and instead of fighting them, they are fighting these guys and girls who work as pawnbrokers. And these guys and girls get fantastic sentences in court. As for the tougher punishment for dissent, I can't imagine how much tougher - for example, deputy Gorinov was given 7 years. Even the security forces tell me that this is too much. They have already imprisoned everyone who can be imprisoned.

But while the practice does not change: an opinion that differs from the official one is a terrible crime. And when there will be a rollback - it is not known. Therefore, with the words now it is worth being doubly careful.

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