The Moscow Times reports:
A senior federal judge has testified in court that a Kremlin official threatened to derail her career if she did not reverse a ruling handed down against the Federal Property Fund. Yelena Valyavina [pictured], first deputy chairwoman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, told Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky District Court that Valery Boyev, an adviser on personnel appointments in the presidential administration, said she would not be returned to her post if she refused to change her position, Kommersant reported Tuesday.
“I was told unambiguously [by Boyev] that if I wanted to be re-elected [to my position], I’d face problems,” Valyavina testified as a defense witness Monday in a libel lawsuit filed by Boyev against radio news program host Vladimir Solovyov.
On the Solovyiniye Treli program on Serebryany Dozhd radio, Solovyov said there were “no independent courts in Russia,” but there were “courts dependent on Boyev,” Kommersant reported.
In her testimony, Valyavina said Boyev asked her in the fall of 2005 to change her ruling regarding the proper ownership of a share package in Tolyattiazot, the country’s biggest producer of ammonia. She said Boyev made his threat when she refused to comply.
In 1996, the Samara region’s Property Fund sold a 6.1 percent stake in Tolyattiazot to joint Russian-Swiss agricultural company Tafco.
In March 2004, The Federal Property Ministry appealed the deal. After having its first two attempts turned down, a third appellate court ruled that the Tolyattiazot deal should be voided. The Supreme Arbitration Court overturned that ruling in November 2005.
Valyavina could not be reached at her office Tuesday afternoon.
Solovyov’s lawyer, Shota Gorgadze, praised Valyavina for her testimony Tuesday, calling it an “exceptionally courageous and heroic act.”
A source in the presidential administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “the final decision was up to the court.”
The next hearing in Boyev’s libel case is scheduled for May 26, Gorgadze said.
In 2001, then-deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitry Kozak introduced a legal reform program, part of which involved trying to guarantee greater independence for judges, although charges of governmental pressure on judges are made regularly in the legal community.
In a January campaign speech, President Dmitry Medvedev called Russia “a country of legal nihilism” with a “disregard for the law.” He has promised to strengthen the rule of law to fight corruption and to encourage growth.