EDITORIAL: Russia Legalizes Barbarism


Russia Legalizes Barbarism

A few weeks ago, we reported on how Russian courts have ruled that it is illegal for women to work in various jobs that men are genetically better suited for.

More recently, we noted the European Union’s conclusion that corruption is so widespread in the Russian court system that justice is impossible to obtain.

But none of that prepared us for the revelation provided by Khodorkovsky attorney Robert Amsterdam while translating a report about his client’s second trial, now underway, from the pages of Novaya Gazeta.

During the trial, it seems the prosecutor began reading from a document.  The defense attorney objected, arguing that the contents were secret attorney-client communications.  The judge asked the prosecutor whether she was simply quoting or including her own comments.  The assistant prosecutor told the prosecutor to ignore the judge and keep reading.  The furious judge asked the assistant how she dared suggest ignoring his question, and the assistant answered that it was because people in the audience were laughing.  The judge then responded:  “Well let ’em laugh! If the convoy [Khodorkovsky’s guards–Trans.] deems it necessary, it will stop them.”

So not only do the prosecutors brazenly flout the judge’s authority, but the judge himself admits that the police decide what happens in his courtroom.  In other words, the forces that are prosecuting (or should we say persecuting?) Khodorkovsky are in charge, not the (supposedly) impartial judge.

This is what passes for “justice” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  And it’s to say nothing of the main point of the article, which is to expose the fact that the charges being leveled against Khodorkovsky are not even logically possible, like accusing him of flying by flapping his arms like a bird, and they are totally inconsistent with the prior convictions of YUKOS personnel that prosecutors have obtained.

In other words, it’s not an exceptional case, but the rule — as the EU’s study clearly shows.  Russia courts are no more just or impartial than were the courts of the USSR, and they are ruled over by a proud KGB spy.  Russia is a neo-Soviet state, bearing down ever more viciously on the last vestiges of civil society and opposition that remain in country.

It is not Mikhail Khdorokovsky who is in prison, but the Russian people themselves — and they are their own jailer.

6 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia Legalizes Barbarism

  1. In Péter Bacsó’s 1968 film comedy A Tanú (“the Witness”) set in Hungary’s early 1950s Stalinist show trials, the witness — a simplistic earthen dam minder named József Pelikán is handed a thick wad of paper in a back room of a trial in progress for him to memorize. The communist official hands it to him and says simply, “Here is your testimony. Repeat this verbatim on the stand.” Pelikán looks at it and says, “But this is the verdict,” to which the communist official apologises and hands him a different wad of paper.

    This film is very famous in Hungary as a relic of its era, but sadly, a Russian watching it today would probably miss the humor….

  2. My favorite “paradox”:

    All of the financial reports of the company being read out by the procurators concerned the years 2003–2004. But then Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were already found in detention, and this means they simply physically could not negotiate any transactions. However this paradox was not explained.

    It woould be hilarious if it wasn’t so disgusting. Putin and Sechin dimwittedly overreached with this second personal revenge show trial and are stuck in script that is getting away from them.

    And, of course, putting anti-Semitism above justice the majority of Russians either avert their eyes from this or cheer on Khodorkovsky’s human rights violations.

  3. “It is not Mikhail Khdorokovsky who is in prison, but the Russian people themselves — and they are their own jailer.”

    A paradox that most Russians will never get.

  4. Police Crime Wave Sparks Talk of Reform In Russia

    June 28, 2009
    By Kevin O’Flynn
    MOSCOW — The name Yevsyukov is now infamous in Russia.

    Denis Yevsyukov, the former head of a police district in the southern Moscow neighborhood of Tsaritsyno, is the 32-year-old police major shocked the nation in April when, upset by a fight with his wife, he went on a shooting spree in a Moscow supermarket that left three people dead and another six injured.

    Seeking to explain the event later that day, Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin called Yevsyukov “a good officer” who “has had a good career.” He added, however, that “it looks from the evidence we have that he had a nervous breakdown.”

    But to many Russians, the crime was deeply sinister. An investigation later revealed that Yevsyukov had shot his victims with a gun that had been illegally removed from a criminal inquiry in Chechnya years before.

    Since then, allegations have surfaced that Yevsyukov ran the Tsaritsyno district like a personal fiefdom, falsifying records on the number of crimes solved, and using his post to extort sums from people looking to avoid prosecution.

    Yevsyukov is not just an anomaly. Since the supermarket rampage, stories have emerged on an almost daily basis in Russia of crimes committed by the crime-fighters themselves.

    In recent weeks, a drunk policeman hit and killed a pregnant woman in Moscow before abandoning the scene of the accident. Another police officer was found dead of a heroin overdose. A third hacked his wife to death with an axe. And a group of policemen were arrested for stealing more than 30 million rubles ($960,000) from passengers at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport.

    All Powerful And Beyond Punishment

    Police brutality has long been a concern among rights-watchers, who say one out of every 25 people in Russia is tortured, beaten, or harassed by law enforcement officials each year.

    Altercations with police have become so commonplace that many Russians can relate their own personal story about a violent brush with the law.

    Dzhordzh Sukhomyro was spending the evening at a crowded disco in the Far Eastern town of Dalnegorsk when the club was stormed by police.

    “A lot of policemen arrived, and at first they beat up one guy and I went up to see what was happening,” Sukhomyro recalls.

    “These were police in uniform, not kids. But then I got hit. Then lots of policemen came in, the whole station, and they took everyone — small, big, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. Teenagers. They took them to the station, and at the station they beat them viciously. Really viciously.”

    The incident took place two years ago when Sukhomyro was 17. He came away with a broken nose and a prison sentence for threatening the well-being of a police officer.

    But there have been no charges against the Dalnegorsk police, despite admissions from local prosecutors that police violated standard procedure in their treatment of the young people at the disco. Some of the police involved in the raid have even received promotions.

    Sukhomyro says the police are seen by most people as all-powerful and beyond punishment.

    “They are everything here. They’re the bandits, the police, the power, and the local administration. They’re everything,” Sukhomyro says. “You value yourself too much to fight them. It’s the same as fighting against the wind. I don’t know how to fight. How can you? To fight them, you need a lot of money, and we don’t have any.”

    Structural Problems

    Sukhomyro is one of many Russians who has taken his case to Public Verdict, a nongovernmental organization formed in 2004 that offers support to citizens who say they were victimized by the police.

    “In the last five years, we can see it getting worse, and the clearest example of this is the tragedy in the Tsaritsyno shopping center,” says Public Verdict’s director, Natalia Taubina.

    “Five years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine [such a thing taking place]. But now, news about law enforcement employees getting behind the wheel in a drunken state and hitting someone on a pedestrian crossing is happening — not every day, thank God, but quite regularly.”

    The policeman who killed the pregnant woman in Moscow was arrested after a public outcry. He was given a two-year suspended sentence last week.

    Experts say the Russian police force has a number of structural problems, and that only a program of sweeping reforms can rehabilitate law enforcement in the eyes of the public.

    Low wages and dilapidated equipment are coupled with an outdated system that demands a rising quota of arrests each month. Morale is low and the force has lost a large number of professionals in recent years. Many of the new recruits cleared for service are poorly educated, and sometimes mentally and physically unsound.

    A Normal System Of Law

    Some lawmakers have long called for comprehensive reform.

    “Raise the wages of policemen by three or four times; provide social guarantees; purge the force [of bad police] and organize supervision of the police by parliament, society and media,” says Gennady Gudkov, the deputy head of the Security Committee in Russia’s State Duma. “Then we will have a normal system of law in Russia.”

    After a whirl of negative stories in the Russian media, one Interior Ministry official hit back last week, saying the police system was fine and that the case of the Yevsyukov supermarket shooting should not be enough to besmirch the reputation of the police.

    “A single incident, committed by a completely rotten personality, has been used to cast dirt on all our system,” Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelyev said. “It is absolute stupidity.”

    But Yedelyev’s comments were quickly overshadowed when a story broke the same day that a policeman had shot a person dead in a Moscow police station and then tried to kill himself.

    Yet police reform does not seem to be on the government’s agenda.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made fighting corruption a priority of his administration. But the country’s long-serving interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev, remains a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

    Independent politician Vladimir Ryzhkov says there is no real desire to tackle the problem. In fact, he suggests the opposite appears to be the case.

    “What’s important is that the police fulfill the role of the organ of repression in the defense of the regime,” Ryzhkov says. “It is the police who break up opposition marches. It is the police who arrest those in opposition, it is the police who fabricate false criminal cases. They are the main repressive instrument of the ruling regime, and that is why they don’t talk about reform. And that’s why the government closes its eyes to the corruption, expansion, and unprofessionalism of the Interior Ministry.”

    For now, Russians are more wary of the police than ever before. In a poll conducted by the Levada public opinion center before the Yevsyukov killings, only 9 percent of respondents said they had complete trust in the police.


    With the police as corrupt as this, is it any suprise the whole nation of Russia is an open sewer?

  5. Pingback: Official Russia | More than just Khodorkovsky in prison

  6. “For now, Russians are more wary of the police than ever before. In a poll conducted by the Levada public opinion center before the Yevsyukov killings, only 9 percent of respondents said they had complete trust in the police.”

    The other 91% was promptly beaten to a bloody pulp and then gutted in the streets.

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