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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 13, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Opposition Leonid Volkov On Trial in Novosibirsk in Contrived Case of 'Obstruction' of LifeNews
4 years
Russian Leaders Prepare the Public for the Worst, As Social Hardships Likely to Grow; Kudrin Not to Return to Government

Opposition activist Leonid Volkov is on trial today in Novosibirsk in a contrived case where authorities have accused him of "blocking the media" for refusing to give an interview to LifeNews, Novaya Gazeta reported.

The prosecutor has taken advantage of a Yeltsin-era offense under Art. 144, section 3 of the Criminal Code, "hindering the lawful professional activity of a journalist with the use of force and damage of property" in order to turn the tables on opposition's efforts to monitor elections.



Last August, Volkov went to Novosibirsk, where his party, Parnas, was fielding candidates. Aleksandr Postupinsky, a journalist who worked for LifeNews at the time, attempted to film him and demanded comments, but Volkov refused. Postupinsky then fielded a complaint to the local prosecutor, saying that Volkov "grabbed his hand" and "damaged his microphone," claims that Volkov denies.

At the trial, Postupinsky elaborated on his story, claiming that Volkov had "crushed his fingers" and "caused me physical pain" and that he even "had bruises," but he had not sought medical treatment at the time.

Volkov, who once served as Alexei Navalny's campaign manager when he won nearly 30% of the vote in the Moscow mayoral elections, could face imprisonment for up to six years in a labor colony for the alleged offenses. Postupinsky commented that he didn't want "a real sentence" for Volkov. 

Volkov tweeted a picture of himself with his lawyer and a link to a blog post: 

Translation: The case of the microphone: the interrogation of the plaintiff Postupinsky.

A Novaya Gazeta photo of the same scene showed that he was in a cage, which is the custom with defendants in Russian criminal cases. 

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He pointed out the contradictions in Postupinsky's testimony in a brief summary:

"Volkov didn't grab me by the hand, he did. He grabbed me by the right hand, by the left. Volkov put a bruise on my wrist, on my elbow. I didn't threaten Volkov, only promised to break his arm. The microphone was working, not working, at first was working, then not working. The microphone was new, it was used. There were no damages on the wind guard, there was a hole from a cigarette. I showed the bruise to Kirsanova, I didn't show it to Kirsanova, I showed it to Pyatinok, I didn't show it to anyone. All my testimonies are true in full and I do not reject any of my words."


Novaya Gazeta's Natalya Zotova who attended the trial also reported Potsupinsky's contradictory testimony as did Media Zone in detail.

As Zotova noted, LifeNews' own video from the day show activists from the extremist National Liberation Movement (NOD) picketing Parnas' headquarters and throwing eggs at Alexei Navalny and other opposition activists. Volkov is shown grabbing the microphone; as he later explained, he was trying to prevent the reporter from approaching Navalny, who was being showered with eggs. Postupinsky can be heard on the video, "What, should I break your hand? Let my micrpohone go," whereupon Volkov replied, "This is not a microphone, but shit."

At the trial, Postupinsky didn't deny he made the comment about breaking Volkov's hand but said he meant it to "calm him down." He also said he "no longer worked at LifeNews," but the circumstances of his employment and departure were not explained. 

Volkov asked how Postupinsky had learned about the press conference, and Postupinsky said he had seen a notice on Parnas' VKontakte page. But as Volkov explained, the notice was for a press conference the following day, July 18; Postupinsky came a day earlier, on July 17, he believed, in order to film the NOD attack.

Postupinsky claimed that he found the microphone to be damaged the next day, but a forensics analysis found that the microphone was worn, but in working order.

He then filed a complaint on September 8, weeks after the incident, that his finger was bruised.

At the trial, when the judge asked him to show the place where he was bruised, he said it was above his elbow, although as Vladimir Bandura, Volkov's lawyer countered, in his original testimony he said the bruise was "in the area of his forearm near his wrist." Volkov pointed out that only after forensics found the microphone wasn't broken on September 1 did Postupinsky come up with the story of his bruised arm on September 8.

The defense also pointed to Postupinsky's police deposition in July which he said "No harm to my health was caused, only the equipment suffered," which he said in court -- to the laughter of the audience -- was true at the time.

Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer, said that the criminal code article about hindrance of the media, which intended to protect journalists, was rarely used; there were only two sentences issued under it in the last five years.

LifeNews is a pro-Kremlin channel close to police and intelligence which is often first at the scene of an incident.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick