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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 26, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
'Art Theft' Case of Navalny's Colleague Heard Today in Vladimir Court
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Today, a court in the city of Vladimir heard the case of an alleged "art theft" involving Georgy Alburov and  Nikita Kulachenkov, associates of Alexey Navalny who have been active in his Anti-Corruption Fund.

Translation: The case of the "stolen painting" given to Navalny by his colleagues as a gift will be heard today in Vladimir Court.

The painting was made by a street artist named Sergei Sotov who works as a janitor and draws in his spare time. The sketch was hanging on a fence on the sidewalk when Navalny's friends took it. It was not for sale.

At first Sotov denied that the sketch had any value but later under pressure from authorities he provided testimony claiming a theft had taken place.

The painting shows a "bad man" and a "good man," the former associated with "the Internet" and the latter with "love for the Motherland."


Alburov appeared in court today.  Kulachenkov has gone into hiding.

The case seemed to be among the most far-fetched that the Russian government has come up with to harass Navalny and his associates.

Translation: it is hard to believe that the trial for a painting is real. It seems any minute now the judge and the prosecutor will begin guffawing and will shout "Fooled you!" and hug @Alburov )

Translation: broadcast from the court in the "poster affair" can be seen here.

Supporters decided to appear with satirical posters made in the same vein as the original painting.

Translation: We're starting to hang up pictures.
Translation: my favorite today
Translation: and my favorite.

According to a report from Novaya Gazeta, the case, while on simple theft charges under Art. 158 of the Russian criminal code was handled by the national FSB office and the Investigative Committee's special cases division.

Sotov originally said the painting was not worth more than 100 rubles ($1.74) and said he didn't want to write a complaint about the missing painting, but was "deceived" by local police and people who "introduced themselves as Vladimir Region officials."

He said police had come to him and demanded that he put a price on the missing painting; he replied "I might sell it for 5,000 rubles ($87)" because "you couldn't ask a million for it." Alburov's lawyer pointed out that the work was not signed and Sotov acknowledged that he did not sign his works.

The investigation of the case proved a pretext to put Alburov under surveillance and even bring in an art specialist to appraise the painting; at one point billboards with the picture were even put up around Moscow. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika complained to Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee in a letter Alburov discovered among his case materials, saying there was no evidence to try the case.

With all the furor, Sotov stopped displaying his works and removed himself from social media. Alburov's lawyer said that because the sketch was on a public fence and was not secured, there was no evidence that a theft took place.

In his testimony, Sotov said he had attended an industrial art school and was now living on a pension.  A local folk museum once took 12 of his paintings to display. He said his works had disappeared in the past. "The rain washes them away or the glue falls off. And sometimes people take them." He said he had no notion of going to the police but just put up new pictures, which he enjoyed drawing because "they reflect life."

Alburov said he believed the case was trumped up in retaliation for the "daching" he had done of high officials. This is a term Navalny's Fund invented to describe their disclosure of the fancy dachas or resorts that officials had built well beyond their actual salaries, indicating they were involved in some corrupt dealings.

The trial will resume March 31. Alburov faces up to 5 years of imprisonment.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick