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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 30, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Railways Chief Sues New York Times for Libel, But Where's the Notice?
7 years
Russian Spies May Be Related to Canadian Aircraft Deal

RAPSI, the Russian legal news service, reported on January 26  that Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, had filed a suit in Presnensky Court in Moscow against the New York Times.

The suit claims that the Times "accused Yakunin of violating the law."

Politico reported, citing TASS, that the article which triggered the lawsuit was published last April and claimed Yakunin, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, paid him large sums of money: see Sanctions Revive Search for Secret Putin Fortune.

The paragraph in question appears to be the following:

American diplomatic cables obtained by the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks show sustained attention to the subject. The cables tied Mr. Putin not only to Gunvor but also to Surgutneftegaz, a large oil company, and even to Gazprom, but they used words like “rumored.” In one cable, for instance, diplomats cited a General Electric executive working in the region who privately said that Mr. Yakunin, the president of the state-owned Russian Railways, “has made sizable cash payments to Putin” and estimated that the Russian leader was worth “well over $10 billion.”

But perhaps the wheels of Russian justice turn more slowly than assumed.

The communications director of the US Embassy in Moscow asked Peter Baker, the author of the article if he had a comment:

Baker did not respond, but Stevens might have asked the author of the original US Embassy cable at the Embassy since the Baker's source for the passage in question was a diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks. US government employees are prohibited from reading WikiLeaks cables, however, unless they have certain security clearances, a rule that seems absurd given how publicized they are now by WikiLeaks, which is still the subject of a grand jury investigation. The rule has been imposed by lawyers to maintain the claim that the material is classified.

Yakunin has brought lawsuits for libel before, for example, a 3 million ruble  libel suit ($83,000 at the time, and now about $43,00) against Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynov, regarding exposes in the Sochi report.

In this suit, however, Yakunin is not seeking any monetary damages, as it is a suit on defense of "honor and dignity," says his lawyer, Aleksey Melnikov. He is asking for a retraction for what he says is an untrue statement, to be published in Russia, the US, Germany and Austria.

The New York Times was originally given a set of stolen cables by WikiLeaks in 2010.

The court is to hold a hearing in the case on February 19. RFE/RL reported that New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy confirmed that the Times had not been served any legal papers in relation to the lawsuit and the newspaper's legal department had not heard from Yakunin or his attorney about their complaint.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick